Nigeria: Letter to Secretary Clinton On Her Forthcoming Trip to Nigeria

By IndepthAfrica
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Aug 8th, 2012
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U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton addresses business delegates during the US-South Africa Business Summit in Johannesburg, South Africa, Monday, Aug. 6, 2012. (AP Photo/Themba Hadebe)

The Honorable Hillary Rodham Clinton

Secretary of State

United States Department of State

Dear Secretary Clinton,

In light of your forthcoming trip to Nigeria, we would like to bring to your attention some of our recent research findings and recommendations for some key human rights challenges facing Nigeria. We hope that you will take the opportunity during your visit to address these issues with your counterparts and speak publicly about these and other human rights concerns.

Boko Haram and Inter-Communal Violence

More than 1,400 people in northern and central Nigeria have been killed in attacks by the militant Islamist group Boko Haram since 2010. Five days of violence in July 2009 left more than 800 people dead. Government security forces captured the group’s leader at the time, Mohammed Yusuf, and summarily executed him along with dozens of other Boko Haram suspects. Since the group reemerged in 2010, their increasingly deadly attacks have targeted police and other government security agents, Christians and churches, and Muslims who are critical of the group or perceived as collaborating with the government. Security agents have rounded up hundreds of individuals and routinely detained them incommunicado without charge or trial. Security forces have also been implicated in extrajudicial killings of Boko Haram suspects and in other detention-related abuses. The group claims they are carrying out attacks against the police in retaliation for security force abuses.

In addition to the Boko Haram attacks, several thousand people – both Muslims and Christians – have died in inter-communal violence in the past four years in Nigeria’s volatile “middle-belt” region – particularly in Kaduna and Plateau states. Mobs have hacked to death many of their victims based simply on their ethnic or religious identity, but rarely has anyone been prosecuted for these massacres. Nigeria’s government has failed to break the cycle of killings by holding the perpetrators accountable. In addition, it has failed to address the root causes of inter-communal violence, including state and local government policies that exacerbate existing ethnic divisions by discriminating against members of ethnic groups they classify as “non-indigenes” – people who cannot trace their ancestry to what are said to be the original inhabitants of an area.

We urge you to press the Nigerian authorities to break the cycle of violence in northern Nigeria as well as in Kaduna and Plateau states by calling on the government to rein in abusive police and soldiers, and prosecute, without delay, all those responsible for the violence. You should call on the authorities to ensure that the population at risk of further attacks in northern and central Nigeria is protected from violence. And you should urge the Nigerian authorities to end divisive state and local government policies that discriminate against “non-indigenes” who reside within their jurisdictions.

Corruption

Despite Nigeria’s tremendous oil wealth, endemic government corruption and poor governance have robbed many Nigerians of their rights to health and education. These problems are most acute in the north – the country’s poorest region – where widespread poverty and unemployment, sustained by corruption, and state-sponsored abuses have created an environment in which militant groups thrive.

Nigeria’s main anti-corruption agency, the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), has since 2005 filed corruption charges against 35 nationally prominent political figures, including 20 former state governors. The EFCC has secured four convictions of high-level officials, but they faced relatively little or no prison time. Despite the endemic corruption, no senior political figure in Nigeria is currently serving prison time for corruption.

In November 2011, President Goodluck Jonathan appointed Ibrahim Lamorde as the EFCC’s chairperson. The move was welcomed by many, including the United States, but the EFCC has not yet made significant strides in the fight against corruption. The commission still lacks adequate institutional independence from the executive. Its chairperson, for example, can be removed at any time at the will of the president.

We encourage you to call on the EFCC chairperson to give a public account of the status and reasons for delays in the corruption cases against senior political figures. We also urge you to press the presidency to improve the independence of the EFCC by sponsoring legislation to amend the EFCC Act to provide greater security of tenure for the commission’s chairperson.

Thank you, once again, for your attention to these concerns.

Sincerely,

Daniel Bekele

Executive Director

Africa Division

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