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Trump administration replies Nigeria on corruption, says fewer steps were taken to prosecute officials Updated for 2021

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Updated: February 26, 2021


The Trump administration on Thursday responded to Nigeria’s anti-corruption agency’s claims that the U.S. 2018 Report on Human Rights Practices on Nigeria was “false” and “misleading”.

A State Department official told TODAY NEWS AFRICA in Washington DC on Thursday afternoon that it agreed “the Government of Nigeria did take some steps to investigate alleged human rights abuses”, however, “fewer steps” were taken “to prosecute officials who reportedly committed abuses, whether in the security forces or elsewhere in the government”.

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The Government of Nigeria did take some steps to investigate alleged human rights abuses but fewer steps to prosecute officials who reportedly committed abuses, whether in the security forces or elsewhere in the government.

The human right report, released in Washington DC on March 13 by Secretary of State Michael Pompeo, chronicled cases of gargantuan corruption in Nigeria in 2018.

Secretary of State Michael R. Pompeo, delivers remarks to the media on the U.S. 2018 Country Reports on Human Rights Practices at the U.S Department of State in Washington DC on Wednesday, March 13, 2019. Photo: EMMANUEL IKODOR, TODAY NEWS AFRICA

It said “massive, widespread, and pervasive corruption affected all levels of government and the security services” in Nigeria in 2018.

It added that the President Muhammadu Buhari government “did not implement the law effectively, and officials frequently engaged in corrupt practices with impunity”.

The State Department report said “EFCC arrests and indictments of politicians continued throughout the year, implicating a significant number of opposition political figures and leading to allegations of partisan motivations on the part of the EFCC”.

In reaction, the Nigerian Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, in a statement sent to TODAY NEWS NEWS AFRICA in Washington DC described the report as “false and misleading”.

Read below the EFCC statement sent to TODAY NEWS AFRICA in Washington D.C.

“The attention of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) has been drawn to a misleading report of the United States Department of Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labour over Nigeria’s anti-graft war,” EFCC said.

I added: “The Bureau, in its Country Reports on Human Rights Practices for 2018, said Nigeria had made little progress in efforts to limit corruption in its public service. This report is not only outdated and false but misleading.

“The report is unfounded on the grounds of Nigeria’s remarkable achievements in the last four years as the war against corruption is on course”.

“The EFCC’s commitment to the fight against corruption in the last four years is not in doubt to any discerning and genuinely concerned observer. This commitment is benchmarked by the unprecedented record of convictions, non-conviction based forfeiture and stolen assets recovery.

“We are surprised that the US report could ignore or downplay our convictions in such a brazen manner when it claimed that the EFCC secured only 13 convictions in 2016. That is false and far from the truth”.

“For the avoidance of doubt, the EFCC has secured 943 convictions since 2015 till date. The agency recorded 103 convictions in 2015, secured 195 convictions in 2016, got 189 convictions in 2017. It is important to state that the EFCC secured 314 convictions in 2018 including two former state governors who were sentenced to 14 years imprisonment without option of fine. It is instructive to note that the two former governors serving their jail terms in prison are members of the ruling All Progressive Congress (APC). The Commission has so far recorded 142 convictions as at March 19 this year. These are verifiable facts.

“We wish to state unequivocally that these convictions being celebrated included high profile persons among who were top ranking military personnel and other politically exposed persons.

“It is instructive to state that no other agency in Africa has this record of convictions and recovery of stolen assets which were achieved in spite of great encumbrances faced by the Commission in the discharge of its assignment as it has come to be known that when you fight corruption, corruption fights back”.

Ambassador Michael Kozak of the Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor, takes questions from journalists on the U.S. 2018 Country Report on Human Rights Practices at the Foreign Press Center of the U.S. Department of State in Washington DC, Wednesday, March 13, 2019. Photo: EMMANUEL IKODOR, TODAY NEWS AFRICA

EFCC said it also recovered or forfeited many stolen assets.

“As a quick reminder, the Supreme Court of Nigeria had on Friday, March 8, 2019 in a unanimous judgement, dismissed the appeal of a former First Lady and wife of former President Goodluck Jonathan, Patience, against the interim forfeiture order of a Federal High Court, Lagos, for $8, 400, 000 (Eight Million Four Hundred Dollars) traced to her by the EFCC and believed to be proceeds of illegal activities. 

“Subsequently, on March 14, 2019, the Supreme Court dismissed another application by Mrs. Jonathan, seeking to upturn the interim forfeiture order by a Federal High Court, Lagos placed on the sum of N2.4 billion linked to her.

“Also of interest is the fact that the former Chief of Defence Staff, the late Alex Badeh forfeited six choice properties and $1, 000,000 (One Million Dollars) to the Federal Government, few days ago on the order of Justice Okon Abang of the Federal High Court, Abuja. 

“It could also be recalled that the EFCC on Friday, March 1, 2019, secured the final forfeiture of the sum N732.85 million being proceed of fraud perpetuated by 17 individuals in the Presidential Amnesty Programme Office. These are no rhetoric, but hard facts!

“We further wish to state that in the area of convictions, Air Vice Marshall Tony Omenyi (retd), was jailed by Justice Nnamdi Dimgba of a Federal High Court, Abuja, on Thursday, February 28, 2019.  He was found guilty of the amended three-count charge brought against him by the EFCC and was sentenced to seven years imprisonment without an option of fine.

“Justice Dimgba, also ordered Huzee Nigeria Limited, a concern owned by Omenyi being a corporate entity to forfeit N60, 000, 000 (Sixty Million Naira) to the Federal Government. 

“Indeed, the EFCC has revolutionized the process of assets tracing and recovery. From the available records, the Commission recovered assets worth several billions of naira and different foreign currencies between 2015 and 2017”. 

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Simon Ateba
Simon Ateba
Simon Ateba covers the White House, the U.S. government, the International Monetary Fund, the World Bank and other financial and international institutions for Today News Africa in Washington D.C. Simon can be reached on simonateba@todaynewsafrica.com

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