According to the United States Department of State, Nigerian government officials and agencies frequently engage in corrupt practices with impunity.
This was contained in the Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor Country Reports on Human Rights Practices for 2012, which was released on Friday evening.
In the report, the judiciary and security agencies, especially the police, were said be lacking in transparency.
It read in part,“The law provides criminal penalties for official corruption; however, the government did not implement the law effectively, and officials frequently engaged in corrupt practices with impunity. Massive, widespread, and pervasive corruption affected all levels of government and the security forces. The constitution provides immunity from civil and criminal prosecution for the president, vice president, governors, and deputy governors while in office.
“There was a widespread perception judges were easily bribed and litigants could not rely on the courts to render impartial judgments. Citizens encountered long delays and alleged requests from judicial officials for bribes to expedite cases or obtain favourable rulings.
“Police corruption remained rampant. Reports of checkpoint bribery and shooting incidents decreased in February after newly appointed Inspector General of Police Mohammed Abubakar announced the closure of all police checkpoints across the country; however, illegal checkpoints remained common in some regions. Police routinely stopped drivers who did not commit traffic infractions, refusing to allow them to continue until they paid bribes,” it stated.
Highlighting events that occurred in the country in last year that portrayed lack of transparency and probity, the US government listed the escape of the suspected mastermind of the Boko Haram 2011 Christmas Day bombing from custody, noting how the police commissioner, who aided the suspect went unpunished; the conviction of former Delta State governor James Ibori in the Southwark Crown Court in London of charges of money laundering and other financial crimes totaling N12.4bn, after he was acquitted by a Nigerian court; and the N1.067trn fuel subsidy fund lost to “endemic corruption and entrenched inefficiency” as examples.
It stated that, “In July, the government released a list of those who had benefited illegally from the subsidy program, which included relatives and colleagues of key government officials. In late July, the EFCC began arraigning suspects, first with a group of 20 indictments, including six oil companies and 11 individuals. By year’s end, the EFCC initiated prosecutions of approximately 50 cases related to the subsidy scam. The majority of these cases involved companies and individuals who had fraudulently received subsidy revenue.
Investigations and trials had not produced any convictions by year’s end.”
The US document also faulted the refusal of public officials to declare their assets as stipulated by law.
It stated that in June 2012, the Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project and other groups demanded that President Jonathan should disclose his assets from 2007 to 2012 but that Jonathan refused.
The report also rated the anti corruption efforts of the Independent Corrupt Practises and other related offences Commission and the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission as “largely ineffectual,” adding that despite ICPC’s wide mandate, it had only achieved 60 convictions since its inauguration in 2000.
It also listed a number of cases being handled by the EFCC that have remained inconclusive, including the case of alleged misappropriation of one N1bn against former Speaker of the House of Representatives, Dimeji Bankole, and N40bn against his deputy Usman Nafada; and the cases against four former governors Gbenga Daniel, Adebayo Alao-Akala, Aliyu Akwe Doma, and Muhammed Danjuma Goje, for allegedly misappropriating N58bn, N25bn, N18bn, and N12.8bn, respectively.
Apart from corruption, the US accused the Federal Government of numerous unlawful killings.
It decried frequent abduction of civilians and lack of press freedom, highlighting cases, where journalists were harassed and beaten up.
It also noted widespread discrimination against persons with disability.
The Presidency, however, described the report as an incorrect assessment of the situation in the country.
Special Adviser to the President on Media and Publicity, Dr. Reuben Abati, warned Nigerians to be wary of such assessments which he described as “parachute researches.”
He said contrary to the picture the report painted, the present administration has remained the most transparent government since the return of democracy to Nigeria.
He said it was in the spirit of transparency that the present administration exposed the scam in the downstream sector of the petroleum industry and passed the Freedom of Information Bill.
He said, “In 2012 that the report is talking about, the EFCC alone got more than 200 convictions. This is in public domain.
“This government did an audit to eliminate waste and leakages in the system.
“On the checkpoints they talked about, it is important that they identify the difference between checkpoints and stop-and-search operation which is required especially in tackling security challenges.
“Nigerians should be wary of these external assessors that jump into conclusion. What are the parameters used in arriving at their conclusion? How scientific are the analysis?
“They assess Nigeria based on the instinct of a parachuter who jumps put of an aircraft without a fair knowledge of where he is landing.”
Culled from Punch Nigeria