Just as the Goodluck Jonathan administration is facing mounting scrutiny at home over an illegal payment of N155 billion to cronies and associates of government officials on a presidential order, the United States of America has delivered a stringent critique of the government’s anti-graft effort.
In its year 2011 report on global human rights released Thursday by the State Department, the U.S. said the three tiers of the Nigerian government was ridden with “massive, widespread and pervasive corruption,” that failed to receive appropriate punitive response from the authorities.
“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,” the report, submitted by Secretary of States, Hillary Clinton, to the U.S. Congress said.
“Massive, widespread, and pervasive corruption affected all levels of government and the security forces,” it continued.
The report, an X-ray of human rights abuses ranging from extrajudicial killings, arbitrary arrest and detention, free press abuses, to cases of graft worldwide, comes as the Jonathan administration is being linked to a scandalous funneling of public funds to shady associates of officials, amid multiple cases of official corruption in the fuel subsidy and pension funds unearthed by the National Assembly.
In details published by this website, partly based on court papers from the US state of New York and PREMIUM TIMES’ investigation of the deal, Mr. Jonathan allegedly authorized the illegal transfer of N155 billion to a former petroleum minister, Dan Etete, convicted of money laundering.
The elaborate corruption scheme, also involving two government ministers, those for Justice and Finance (minister of state) – Mohammed Adoke and Yerima Ngama, triggered multiple disbursement of the money into several account held by figures linked to government officials.
Since the stories broke out this week, government officials have maintained a defeaning silence, refusing to explain their roles in the scandal.
The disclosures came as the government faced growing calls from opposition, rights group, and the media for the prosecution of officials indicted in the fuel subsidy fraud involving more than N2 trillion.
This week, the president has ordered that the monumental fraud uncovered produced by the House of Representatives be re-investigated by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission(EFCC), fuelling concerns those indicted may never face justice after all.
The details of the US report cover between January and December 2011. It hammered on the administration’s penchant for allowing impunity, and letting indicted officials off the hook, affirming public concern about government’s resolve to punish official theft.
The report described the anti-corruption effort of the Farida Waziri-led Economic and Financial Crimes Commission’s (EFCC) as “largely ineffectual” and cited the corruption in the judiciary and the police.
Mrs. Waziri was removed on November 23, 2011 by President Jonathan based on what the report says were “credible allegations” that she was engaged in corrupt practices.
“Citizens encountered long delays and alleged requests from judicial officials for bribes to expedite cases or obtain favourable rulings,” it said.
“Police corruption remained rampant, particularly at highway checkpoints. Police routinely stopped drivers who did not commit traffic infractions, refusing to allow them to continue until they paid bribes.”
The report named typical celebrated high profile arrest that had more political undertone than real motive to deliver justice, decrying the endless legal voyage such cases usually follow with no fruitful end.
“On October 26, the Code of Conduct Tribunal commenced the trial of former governor of Lagos State Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu, who allegedly failed to disclose multiple foreign bank accounts he operated while serving as governor. There was no decision in the case by year’s end,” it said.
It mentioned all high profile arrests involving past governors and lawmakers, and particularly cited the refusal of the government to try former military head of state, Ibrahim Babangida for corruption.
“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.”