Thursday, September 29, 2011

Nigeria: Calls for Action to Beef Up Anti-Corruption Efforts

27 Septmeber 2011

Dakar — Despite early optimism in Nigeria's anti-corruption efforts, analysts and citizens are losing faith in the potential for progress, with Human Rights Watch (HRW) saying immediate action is necessary to maintain public confidence that fighting corruption can make a difference.

HRW researcher Chris Albin-Lackey said Nigeria's main corruption-fighting agency, the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), had initially "captured the imagination of Nigerians" and made them believe that corrupt politicians could be held to account. Established by the Nigerian government in 2002 the commission was given broad powers to investigate and prosecute economic and financial crimes, including government corruption.

President Goodluck Jonathan has also spoken out against corruption. This year in the lead up to April's presidential elections he ran on a strong anti-corruption platform, vowing not to interfere in the operation of the EFCC. When he swore in his new administration in July he continued to insist that all levels of government would be investigated, declaring corruption was a "monster that we need to confront and defeat".

But confidence in EFCC and Jonathan's government is fading. Nigeria stands at 134 in Transparency International's annual corruption perceptions index, which ranks 178 countries in order of least to most corrupt.

Although EFCC is still the brightest hope for combating corruption in Nigeria, said Albin-Lackey,"the public face and the potential of the EFCC has started to slip [and] it needs public legitimacy to function." Without prompt action to improve the commission, public confidence may erode too far for its legitimacy to be restored, he said.

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