John Campbell

Africa in Transition

Campbell tracks political and security developments across sub-Saharan Africa.

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HRW Report: “Corruption on Trial? The Record of Nigeria’s Economic and Financial Crimes Commission”

by John Campbell
August 29, 2011

Nigeria's former speaker of house of representatives Dimeji Bankole is escorted out of the Federal High Court in the capital Abuja June 13, 2011. (Afolabi Sotunde/Courtesy Reuters)

In Human Rights Watch’s newest report, “Corruption on Trial? The Record of Nigeria’s Economic and Financial Crimes Commission,” this highly credible NGO takes a break from its more usual investigations into conflict and violence to assess the successes and failures of Nigeria’s Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC)—the agency tasked to investigate and prosecute financial crimes ranging from advanced fee fraud, more commonly known as “419” scams, to money laundering to government corruption.

The HRW report should be required reading for those of us concerned about sustainable solutions to seemingly endemic conflict. In Nigeria, as elsewhere, corruption and conflict are inextricably linked. Competition for access to Nigeria’s vast oil wealth through public office has spurred winner-take-all politics, justifying any means. Unemployed youths are hired by politicians to intimidate and fight for them; ethnic, regional, and religious identities are mobilized for political purposes; elections are rigged; bribes are paid; and favors are owed. And the winner truly takes all. As the report notes, Nigeria’s political system is “built to reward corruption, not punish it.” And violence is corruption’s handmaiden.

At present, nowhere is this more clear than in the North (and now Abuja). The widespread violence throughout the North culminating in Friday’s bloody attack on the UN headquarters building in Abuja has been attributed to Boko Haram, a fundamentalist Islamic movement. It attacks representatives and institutions of the federal government and venues deemed un-Islamic—police, military, bars, brothels, federal and local officials, and even churches. Boko Haram derives popular support in part from alienation in the North among the grassroots from the federal government, as well as the endemic poverty, that is a manifestation of Nigeria’s corrupt, winner-take-all politics.

Read the report here.

H/T to Asch Harwood.

Post a Comment 1 Comment

  • Posted by Zainab

    Thank you Ambassador Campbell for your apt analysis. As you rightly noted: “In Nigeria, as elsewhere, corruption and conflict are inextricably linked. Competition for access to Nigeria’s vast oil wealth through public office has spurred winner-take-all politics, justifying any means”. With this zero-sum-game in politics is inevitably marginalization and alienation of the one who loses out. Add Nigeria’s complex ethno-religious-regional cleavages and you have the perfect ingredients for do or die politics and conflict. Power needs to be devolved from the center, that seems to be one of the most viable solutions to Nigeria’s myriad of problems

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