Teaching Comparative Government and Politics

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Whose corruption?

President Jonathan has appointed a new head of the anti-corruption agency. The position has long been the center of contention depending upon whose corruption has been exposed. So, how much legitimacy does the agency and the director (and the president) still have?

Nigeria president fires anti-corruption czar
Nigeria's president unexpectedly fired the head of the oil-rich and graft-prone nation's lead anti-corruption agency Wednesday, removing an official who has been criticized and portrayed as being controlled by the country's political elite.

Farida Waziri still had at least another year in her tenure as chairwoman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission before the sudden decision by President Goodluck Jonathan, agency spokesman Femi Babafemi said. Babafemi confirmed Waziri had been fired, but said he didn't know the president's reasons for pushing Waziri out…

The anti-graft agency came into existence only a few years after Nigeria became a democracy in 1999 following a series of military rulers and failed civilian governments. Its first chief, Nuhu Ribadu, claimed at one point that Africa's most populous nation likely lost more than $380 billion to graft between 1960 and 1999, the country's post-independence period that saw a string of military dictatorships and failed civilian governments.

Theft may also be rising as crude oil prices have spiked in recent years, sending more unaccounted-for cash into one of the top suppliers to the U.S.

The administration of late President Umaru Yar'Adua forced Ribadu from the agency in 2008. Waziri, who took over the commission, has been criticized by U.S. diplomats in leaked cables for being unprepared and for apparently being controlled by politicians. Others have leveled corruption allegations against her and operatives of the commission, though none have been proven.

The commission under Waziri has charged several prominent bankers over the fraud that caused the near-collapse of the country's banks in 2009. It also recently arrested and charged former House Speaker Dimeji Bankole over corruption allegations -- the first major strike against the nation's political elite in many months.

Still, prosecutions by the agency have not risen since 2007, according to a recent Human Rights Watch report…

The president appointed agency deputy Ibrahim Lamurde as the commission's acting chairman, Babafemi said. Lamurde served as a trusted official under Ribadu, but later was sidelined following his departure.

The return of Lamurde could signal a more robust and aggressive pursuit of corruption in Nigeria. However, the agency under Ribadu trampled on suspects' rights while avoiding targeting the allies of then-President Olusegun Obasanjo, Human Rights Watch has said.

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