by Tolu Orekoya
There is not much to be said about the human rights report that the cartoon above and the title doesn’t say. It is from the 2011 Human Rights Watch assessment of the Nigeria Police Force, and is truly the stuff of nightmares with rape, extrajudicial killings, and of course, the usual bribery and corruption.
Things have not improved in a year.
President Goodluck Jonathan’s tenure as president has done little to improve the corruption problem in the country according to the report, and Nigeria has continued in a downward slide with very few bright spots being mentioned, with the opening paragraph being a fairly damning indictment on the president’s underwhelming response to the issue.
Deeply entrenched human rights problems, as well as the growing threat posed by a militant Islamist group, underscored the pressing need for President Goodluck Jonathan to strengthen and reform the institutions that ensure security and the rule of law.
You know it’s bad when the only thing wholly positive they can say about our country is that, “Civil society and the independent press openly criticize the government and its policies, allowing for robust public debate,” the very same thing they said about the country last year. Which they spoil by then listing incidences that involve intimidation, harassment and assault on the country’s journalists throughout 2011.
Here are snippets from the report.
On government corruption
“But executive interference with the EFCC, a weak and overburdened judiciary, and the agency’s own failings have undermined the effectiveness of its work. At this writing the commission had only secured four convictions of senior political figures, and they faced relatively little or no prison time. The EFCC has failed to prosecute other senior politicians widely implicated in corruption, and the political elite continues to squander and siphon off the country’s tremendous oil wealth, leaving poverty, malnutrition, and mortality rates among the world’s highest.”
On Security Forces
As in previous years, the undisciplined Nigeria Police Force was implicated in frequent human rights violations, including extrajudicial killings, torture, arbitrary arrests, and extortion-related abuses. The police routinely solicit bribes from victims to investigate crimes and from suspects to drop investigations. Embezzlement of police funds is rife among senior police officials who also often demand monetary “returns” from money extorted from the public by their subordinates. Meanwhile, soldiers were implicated in several attacks on villages in Plateau State in August and September, and in extrajudicial killings in response to Boko Haram attacks in Maiduguri.
On Key International Actors
The UK government continued to play a leading role in international efforts to combat money laundering by corrupt Nigerian officials, demonstrated by the April extradition from Dubai of powerful former Delta State governor James Ibori. However, the UK increased funding to £180 million ($280 million) in aid to Nigeria in 2011, including security sector assistance, without demanding accountability for government officials or members of the security forces implicated in corruption or serious human rights abuses.
There were a few positives including:
The administration took some steps to improve government transparency. In May the National Assembly passed, and President Jonathan signed into law, the Freedom of Information Act, which guarantees the public the right to access public records.
Nigeria made only limited progress with its anti-corruption campaign in 2011. The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) at this writing had arraigned 35 nationally prominent political figures on corruption charges since 2003, including in 2011 a former federal minister, four former state governors, and a former speaker and deputy speaker of the House of Representatives.
Download and read the full report here.