The United States government has assessed the incidence of corruption under President Goodluck Jonathan and concluded that “Massive, widespread, and pervasive corruption affected all levels of government and the security forces.” Presenting the annual Country Reports on Human Rights Practices for 2012, by the Bureau of Democracy,
Human Rights and Labor of the US Department of State, Secretary of State, Senator John Kerry said on Friday, 19 April 2013: I thank my colleagues in the Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor, and in our embassies around the world, for many, many long days that go into these reports. This really is a year-long effort because the reports are taken seriously and we want them to be based on fact. And so there’s a great deal of analysis that goes into them. There has to be Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor, Country Reports on Human Rights Practices for 2012, Nigeria
Section 4. Corruption and Lack of Transparency in Government
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 favorable 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. The Office of the Inspector General of Police attempted to strengthen the Police Monitoring Unit, which was charged with visiting police stations to search officers for signs of accepting bribes; however, the unit remained ineffective and made no arrests by year’s end. Citizens could report incidents of police corruption to the NHRC; however, the NHRC did not act on such complaints during the year, and no other mechanism existed to investigate security force abuse (see section 5).
In 2010 HRW released Everyone’s in on the Game, a report on corruption and human rights abuses by the police. HRW compiled information from 145 interviews and documented pervasive police extortion committed with impunity by police officers throughout the country. Police demanded bribes, threatened arrest and physical harm, and enforced a system of “returns” in which officers must pay up the chain of command a share of the money they extorted from the public. This system undermined the rule of law and created a large disincentive for superior officers to hold their subordinates accountable for extortion and other abuses.
On January 14, police arrested the suspected mastermind of the Boko Haram 2011 Christmas Day bombing. The following day he escaped, reportedly in broad daylight and while still wearing handcuffs. Authorities later arrested, detained, suspended, and dismissed a police commissioner for his alleged role in the escape. The police commissioner eventually gained release from custody, and there were no further updates on the case.
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 to the Code of Conduct Bureau (CCB) before assuming and after leaving office. Violators risked prosecution, but cases rarely came to conclusion. In June the Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project and other groups demanded President Jonathan disclose his assets from 2007 to 2012. On June 24, the president refused the request. The President’s Office and the PDP contended President Jonathan declared his assets in compliance with the provisions of section 140(1) of the constitution and submitted them to the CCB prior to his assumption of office, and there was no stipulation requiring publication of the information. On June 26, SERAP responded by filing a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request with the Presidency and the CCB requesting release of the information within seven days. The president had not released information on his assets by year’s end, insisting the law required declaration of assets but not publication of the report. The constitution calls on the CCB to “retain custody of such declarations and make them available for inspection by any citizen of Nigeria on such terms and conditions as the National Assembly may prescribe.” The Code of Conduct Act does not address the issue of publication.
In June the Legal Defense and Assistance Project (LEDAP) also filed a FOIA request with the Abuja Federal High court requesting members of the National Assembly disclose their salaries and allowances. After the National Assembly did not respond, LEDAP filed a suit in court demanding the information per the stipulations in the FOIA. The National Assembly attempted to argue the FOIA did not cover legislators’ earnings. The court disagreed and ruled against the National Assembly. National Assembly members had not disclosed their assets by year’s end.
In August the CCB began the process of verifying personal assets of the 36 state governors and those of serving ministers. The tribunal gave these officials three months to declare all personal assets. In October 2011 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 maintained while serving as governor. In December 2011 the court dismissed his case.
The anticorruption efforts of the ICPC and EFCC remained largely ineffectual. The ICPC holds broad authorities to prosecute all forms of corruption, whereas the EFCC is tasked with handling only financial crimes. Despite this wider mandate the ICPC had only achieved 60 convictions since its inauguration in 2000.
The 2008 replacement of the EFCC’s internationally respected chairman, Nuhu Ribadu, and transfer of many of its senior personnel raised questions about the government’s commitment to fighting corruption. In November 2011 President Jonathan removed EFCC Chair Farida Waziri after credible allegations that she was engaged in corrupt practices. On February 15, the Senate confirmed EFCC Director of Operations Ibrahim Lamorde as the new chair. On March 22, Lamorde publicly stated the EFCC itself suffered from corruption and needed a “clean up.”
After he assumed office, the EFCC under Lamorde continued or brought new cases against 12 nationally prominent public officials. Despite the arrest of several high-ranking officials by the EFCC, allegations continued that agency investigations targeted individuals who had fallen out of favor with the government, while those who were in favor continued their activities with impunity.
In August 2011 HRW released Corruption on Trial, a report on the record of the EFCC. The report examined the EFCC’s record of conviction and prosecution of members of the political elite implicated in corruption under Ribadu and his replacement, Waziri. The report found that although the EFCC had done a competent job of prosecuting apolitical financial crimes, it had less success in high-profile political corruption cases.
On April 18, a House of Representatives Committee led by Representative Farouk Lawan and charged with investigating the fuel subsidy program from 2009 to 2011 released a report showing massive fraud, corruption, and inefficiencies in the operation of the program. The report alleged misappropriation of nearly half the subsidy funds, with poor or nonexistent oversight by government agencies. The report estimated government money lost to “endemic corruption and entrenched inefficiency” amounted to 1.067 trillion naira ($6.8 billion). The committee recommended reform of the oversight and enforcement mechanisms and further endorsed investigation and prosecution of culpable officials.
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.
On February 24, the EFCC instituted criminal charges against former governor of Bayelsa State Timipre Sylva for laundering close to five billion naira ($32 million) of funds belonging to Bayelsa State. The court adjourned the trial until January 2013.
On March 21, the EFCC arrested Ondo State Oil Producing Communities Development Commission Chair Debo Ajimuda over an alleged 61.4 billion naira fraud ($393 million).
On March 29, the EFCC arraigned six suspects for allegedly defrauding the Police Pension Fund of 32.8 billion naira ($210 million). Included among the six was Atiku Abubakar Kigo, who served as director of the Police Pension Office before becoming permanent secretary in the Ministry of the Niger Delta. Justice Lawal H. Gumi of the FCT High Court ordered all bank accounts associated with the suspects frozen pending resolution of the case. On May 16, suspect Esai Dangabar filed an appeal of Justice Guma’s asset freezing order, but a three-judge panel of the Abuja Court of Appeal upheld the order. On December 17, police arrested Dangabar for interfering with properties the court ordered him to forfeit to the government in relation to the case.
In June allegations and a video surfaced, allegedly showing Lawan accepting a 94.2 million naira ($605,000) bribe from entrepreneur Femi Otedola, who had advised Lawan on the investigation but whose company had not received fuel subsidy payments. After Lawan solicited the bribe from Otedola, the latter approached the SSS to record the hand-off as part of a “sting” operation. The attorney general referred the case to the police for further investigation. The allegations initially overshadowed the committee’s findings, but the EFCC continued with investigations at year’s end.
In May 2011 the EFCC arrested former minister of works and housing Hassan Lawal for 24 counts of fraudulently awarding contracts, money laundering, and embezzlement of 75 billion naira ($480 million). The case continued throughout the year, but the court adjourned the trial until February 2013.
In June 2011the EFCC arrested Dimeji Bankole, former speaker of the House of Representatives, and Deputy Speaker Usman Nafada for the alleged misappropriation of one billion naira ($6.4 million) and 40 billion naira ($256 million) respectively. The case continued throughout the year, but the court adjourned the trial until January 2013.
In October 2011 the EFCC arrested four former governors who vacated office earlier in the year, including former 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. The four allegedly misappropriated or stole 58 billion naira ($372 million), 25 billion naira ($160 million), 18 billion naira ($115 million), and 12.8 billion naira ($82 million), respectively. Their trials began in December 2011 and continued at year’s end.
On February 27, former Delta State governor James Ibori pled guilty to charges in the Southwark Crown Court in London to charges of money laundering and other financial crimes totaling 12.4 billion naira ($79 million) he had committed during his eight years in office. On April 17, the court sentenced Ibori to 13 years in prison. Soon after the court announced Ibori’s conviction, the EFCC issued a statement it intended to pursue a case against Ibori in Nigerian courts.
The FOIA, signed into law in May 2011, allows any person to request information from a government office. The office must grant access to the information, explain why access was denied within seven days of receiving the request, or transfer the request to the appropriate office within three days. The FOIA makes it the responsibility of all public offices to keep records and provides immunity for public officers against any form of civil or criminal proceeding for “disclosure in good faith of any information” pursuant to the FOIA. The act provides a 30-day window within which anyone denied access by any public institution can bring the matter to court for a judicial review. The act includes a fine of 500,000 naira ($3,200) for any institution or public officer who wrongfully denies access to information or records. Destruction of records is a felony punishable by a minimum penalty of one year’s imprisonment under the act.
Civil society groups continued to introduce an increasing number of cases at the national and state level to test the FOIA during the year. Despite the number of cases introduced, there was only one reported successful prosecution during the year.
On March 1, in response to one such FOIA case, a federal high court ordered the EFCC to disclose its sources of information regarding allegations it had made against former president of the Committee for the Defense of Human Rights Olasupo Ojo. Specifically, the EFCC, then under the leadership of Farida Waziri, had accused Ojo, a vocal critic of Waziri, of compromising himself and the committee by collecting 52 million naira ($337,000) from persons under investigation by the EFCC. The EFCC had not complied with the order by year’s end.