The United States has again dismissed Nigeria’s anti-corruption efforts as mere talk, describing the Goodluck Jonathan era as one in which the government is not implementing the law, and officials engage in corrupt practices with impunity.
“Massive, widespread, and pervasive corruption affected all levels of government and the security forces,” it said of Nigeria in its 2011 Country Reports on Human Rights Practices, which was submitted to Congress by Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton. The department submits reports on all countries receiving assistance and all United Nations Member States to the U.S. Congress in accordance with the Foreign Assistance Act of 1961 and the Trade Act of 1974.
“There was a widespread perception that judges were easily bribed and that litigants could not rely on the courts to render impartial judgments,” said the report in its segment on Nigeria. “Citizens encountered long delays and alleged requests from judicial officials for bribes to expedite cases or obtain favorable rulings.”
It described the efforts of the Economic and Financial Commission (EFCC) as “largely ineffectual,” and stated that President Jonathan in November 2011 removed the EFCC Chair, Farida Waziri, after credible allegations appeared that she was engaged in corrupt practices.
“Public officials, including the president, vice president, governors, deputy governors, cabinet ministers, and legislators (at both federal and state levels), must comply with financial disclosure laws, including the requirement to declare their assets before assuming and after leaving office,” noted the report. “Violators risked prosecution, but cases rarely came to conclusion.”
Notable here would be President Jonathan, who has refused to declare his assets, igniting speculation as to the depth and spread of his wealth, and how that may be responsible for his fear of confronting corruption, including prosecuting Mrs. Waziri after firing her for “credible allegations” of corrupt practices.
On other subjects, the performance of the government was also indicted. For instance, on “Respect for the Integrity of the Person,” the report stated that the government or its agents committed numerous arbitrary or unlawful killings. This would corroborate the argument of many Nigerians about the inability of the security forces to solve crime, and that the government is responsible for them.
“During the year the Joint Task Force (JTF)…conducted raids on militant groups and criminal suspects in the Niger Delta and Borno State, resulting in numerous deaths and injuries to both alleged criminals and civilians,” said the report. “According to credible eyewitness accounts, the JTF committed illegal killings during attempts to apprehend members of the extremist group Boko Haram (“Western education is anathema,” in Hausa) in Borno State and surrounding areas.”
Similarly, the report said that security service personnel, including police, military, and State Security Service (SSS) officers, regularly tortured, beat, and abused demonstrators, criminal suspects, detainees, and convicted prisoners. “Police mistreated civilians to extort money. The law prohibits the introduction into trials of evidence and confessions obtained through torture; however, police often used torture to extract confessions.”
The loudest and most damaging comment in the report is to be found in three words: “at/by year’s end,” in the sense of futility and the Nigerian government’s penchant for long, drawn-out, inconclusive activity, such as prosecution or investigation, during 2011.
The Code of Conduct Tribunal commenced the trial of former governor of Lagos State Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu…There was no decision in the case by year’s end;
In October the EFCC arrested four former governors…Ogun governor Otunba Gbenga Daniel, former Oyo governor Chief Adebayo Alao-Akala, former Nasarawa governor Alhaji Aliyu Akwe Doma, and former Gombe governor Muhammed Danjuma Goje. Their trials began in December and continued at year’s end.
In May 2010 authorities arraigned former PDP national chairman Vincent Ogbulafor on 17 criminal counts of corruption and money laundering in the amount of 2.3 billion naira ($14 million). Ogbulafor filed a petition to dismiss the charges. There were no new developments in the case by year’s end.
In August 2010 Attorney General Mohammed Adoke announced that the government could not authenticate the Pius Okigbo Panel report on former military president and General Ibrahim Babangida, which charged that Babangida mismanaged 12.4 billion naira ($76 million) during his administration. The civil society group Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) accused the attorney general of a cover-up. A federal high court was scheduled to announce a ruling on July 28, but did not do so by year’s end.
Civil society groups introduced a number of cases at the national and state level to test the FOIA during the year. For example, in September the SERAP brought a case against the Oyo State government after being denied access to information on state funding for primary education. The case continued at year’s end.
On September 12, members of the police unit Operation Famou Tangbei (OFT) raided the home of Freddie Philip Ockiya in Yenagoa, Bayelsa State. Members of the OFT arrested Ockiya and took him to the local police station. His family searched for him until September 21, when his body was discovered at the morgue. The family filed a suit against members of the police and government in a federal high court. The inspector general of police disbanded the OFT in late September, but authorities did not arrest any members of the OFT in connection with Ockiya’s death by year’s end.
In April 2010 the Maiduguri High Court found that in 2009 police detained and subsequently killed Baba Fagu, the father-in-law of then Boko Haram leader Muhammad Yusuf, following violent clashes between police and militant members of Boko Haram in four northern states in 2009. The court ordered the federal and state governments to pay 100 million naira ($617,000) as compensation to Fagu’s family. The Borno State government challenged the Maiduguri High Court’s decision and appealed the judgment. At year’s end the case remained in the Court of Appeals in Jos, Plateau State.
In 2009 soldiers arrested Muhammad Yusuf. Credible media reports claimed that police executed Yusuf, whose bruised body subsequently was seen at state police headquarters with multiple bullet wounds. While police initially admitted killing Yusuf in custody, they subsequently claimed he died while trying to escape.
Buji Fai, a former state government official suspected of funding Boko Haram, also reportedly died in custody along with Fagu. Later that year, then president Yar’Adua pledged to conduct a full investigation of the Boko Haram uprising, including the circumstances surrounding Yusuf’s death, but authorities had not publicly released the results of the investigation by year’s end. On July 19, five police officers were arraigned in the federal high court in Abuja for the murder of Yusuf. The court granted bail to four of the officers, while one remained in custody. The case continued at year’s end.
A panel established by Plateau State to investigate the killings of approximately 700 civilians by security forces in the Jos North local government area in 2008 attributed the violence to provocation by religious leaders as well as violence by political parties and local government officials. The panel’s full report, released in April 2010, linked persons wearing uniforms to impersonate police with many of the killings; the report did not find definitive evidence of police or military involvement in extrajudicial killings. By year’s end authorities had neither charged nor punished anyone for the killings. In February 2010 President Jonathan called for a second investigative committee following an outbreak of violence earlier in the year. In September 2010 this body, known as the “Lar Committee,” submitted its recommendations… However, the committee’s recommendations had yet to be implemented, and neither the federal nor the Plateau State government set up truth and reconciliation committees by year’s end.
Police use of excessive force, including live ammunition, to disperse demonstrators resulted in numerous killings during the year. For example, on February 11, Ekiti police reportedly shot and killed five persons protesting the announcement of the relocation of a federal university to Oye-Ekiti that the state governor previously had promised would be located in the Ado-Ekiti community. Authorities had neither charged nor punished anyone for the killings by year’s end.
On August 14, police in Anambra State reportedly shot five persons at a roadblock after they would not pay a bribe of 20 naira ($0.13). One of the passengers reportedly died at the scene, while the other four were rushed to a hospital, where they were pronounced dead. Eyewitnesses stated that the driver claimed to already have paid 20 naira but could not produce a receipt that the policeman demanded. When the driver attempted to leave, the police opened fire. A police representative confirmed that one person was killed and three were rushed to the hospital. There were no developments in the case by year’s end.
For example, on October 16, police reportedly shot and killed Victor Emmanuel in Bayesla State after he criticized the police for extorting money from passing motorists on the road from his church. On October 28, police officials announced that the accused officers received an “orderly room trial” that could lead to dismissal or prosecution; however, the case remained pending at year’s end.