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US: Corruption, lack of transparency still prevalent in Nigeria

The United States government, yesterday, said massive, widespread and pervasive corruption was still prevalent at all levels of government, including the judiciary and security services in Nigeria. In its 2020 Country Reports on Human Rights Practices released yesterday, the US observed that though Nigeria has laws providing criminal penalties for conviction of official corruption, the government did not consistently implement the law, and government employees frequently engaged in corrupt practices with impunity. Apparently blaming the situation on loopholes in the country’s legal framework, the report observed that the Nigerian Constitution provides immunity from civil and criminal prosecution for the president, vice president, governors, and deputy governors while in office.

The report, prepared by the Bureau of Democracy Human Rights and Labour at the Department of State, declared that there were numerous allegations of government corruption during the year (2020). The report acknowledged the roles of the Independent Corrupt Practices Commission (ICPC) and the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) in combating corruption, financial and economic crimes, and the bulk of their efforts remained focused on low and mid-level government officials. “During the year, there was a high-profile investigation involving the acting chairman of the EFCC, Ibrahim Magu. In July, authorities arrested Magu and charged him with embezzlement. Magu was suspended as acting EFCC chairman.

The ICPC led a raid in August 2019 that resulted in the arrest of 37 Federal Road Safety officers and five civilian employees on charges of extortion. “As of December 2019, the EFCC had secured 890 convictions, a record during the year. Through court-martial, the military convicted and fired a Major General in connection with the 2019 reported theft of N400 million (more than one million dollars) in cash. “In 2019, both organizations started investigations into, and brought indictments against, various active and former high-level government officials. Many of the corruption cases, particularly the high-profile ones, remained pending before the court due to administrative or procedural delays,” the report said.

However, the report hailed the reawakening at the Nigeria National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC), an organisationnotoriousforitsopaque operationsand accounting system over the years. “In June, the Nigeria National Petroleum Corporation released audited 2018 financial statements, the first of such release since its establishment in 1977. “The corporation also published audited accounts of its 20 subsidiaries and business divisions. In December, the Federal Government launched the Financial Transparency Policy and Portal, commonly referred to as Open Treasury Portal, with the aim of increasing transparency and governmental accountability of funds transferred by making the daily treasury statement public.

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