[JURIST] Corruption in the Nigerian government has become endemic [press release], Human Rights Watch (HRW) [advocacy website] reported [materials] Thursday, criticizing the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) [official website] particularly and the administration of President Goodluck Jonathan [BBC profile; JURIST news archive] generally. Although the agency has arraigned 45 different government officials, HRW believes their trials are moving too slowly and is concerned about the small sentences for the four officials who have been convicted. Due to corrupt officials siphoning the profits from Nigeria’s vast oil reserves, human rights programs receive little funding and have not advanced in the nation.
The broadest obstacle any effort to tackle corruption in Nigeria faces is this: the country’s political system is built to reward corruption, not punish it. Too often, corruption is a prerequisite for success in Nigeria’s warped political process. Since 1999, elections have been stolen more often than won, and many politicians owe their illicitly-obtained offices to political sponsors who demand financial “returns” that can only be raised through corruption. Put simply, the day-to-day functioning of Nigeria’s political system constantly and directly undermines the EFCC’s work.
HRW had a number of recommendations for the nation, including for state governments to modernize their judicial systems and for the government to embrace transparency. The report also endorsed several pieces of legislation: the Evidence Act [AllAfrica report], the Special Courts Establishment Bill [JURIST report] and amending the Code of Conduct Bureau and Tribunal Act [official website].
Earlier this month, the Nigerian Ebonyi State Commissioner of Justice and Attorney General, Ben Igwenyi, called for the establishment of a special court to hear corruption cases [JURIST report]. He argued that corruption cases in the regular courts take too long to process, causing people to forget about them and perpetuating the appearance of corruption in the government. He proposed merging the Independent Corrupt Practices and other Related Offences Commission (ICPC), which investigates corruption, and the EFCC to form an anti-corruption court. Corruption remains a problem in Nigeria as the EFCC arrested [JURIST report] outgoing speaker of the House of Representatives Dimeji Bankole in June on allegations of fraud. He is believed to have secured a USD $ 66 million loan on top of his normal salary. In March, HRW and the Nigerian Bar Association [association website] called for Nigeria’s National Assembly to pass legislation creating a special electoral offenses commission [statement; JURIST report] tasked with investigating and prosecuting election-related abuses, including violence. In 2006, then Nigerian vice president Atiku Abubakar [official profile; official website] was charged with more than a dozen counts of corruption [JURIST report] in the Code of Conduct Tribunal, a special corruption court that has the power to strip elected officials of immunity. The charges were related to the alleged diversion of $125 million dollars of public money to private interests, as well as allegations of receiving more than $4.6 million dollars in bribes.