Thursday, October 11, 2007

Nigeria 'mired in violence'

Nigeria 'mired in violence'

10/10/2007 10:07 - (SA)

Lagos - Politics in Nigeria remain mired in violence and corruption eight years after the end of military rule, says Human Rights Watch (HRW) in a report.
"Eight years since the end of military rule .. the conduct of many public officials and government institutions is so pervasively marked by violence and corruption as to more resemble criminal activity than democratic governance," said the report.
The New York-based rights watchdog continued: "Many of Nigeria's ostensibly elected leaders obtained their positions by demonstrating an ability to use corruption and political violence to prevail in sham elections."
In some states of the federation, unelected but immensely powerful "godfathers" dominated the political scene, having gained control over politicians.
Criminal gangs hired
The godfather provided protection for the elected politician and did his dirty work. In return, the politician turned a chunk of the state budget over to his sponsor and gave him a say over political appointments at state and local level, the report continued.
It cited among other examples, the southern states of Oyo and Anambra. The report also highlighted the tendency for political figures to "openly recruit and arm criminal gangs to unleash terror upon their opponents and ordinary members of the public".
In the southern Rivers state, criminal gangs initially hired to rig the 2003 state governorship elections had since become a law unto themselves, it noted.
Former Rivers state governor Peter Odili had not so far faced any formal investigation or sanction for his alleged role in sponsoring the gangs who plunged the whole of the Niger Delta into chaos, the report continued.
It said: "Public officials in Nigeria can usually expect to enjoy complete impunity for any crimes they may commit, however egregious."
On the rare occasions when a politician was sanctioned, it was normally an opposition politician rather than a member of the ruling party.
Such a long time after the country's return to civilian government "rampant official, corruption and human rights abuse can no longer be dismissed as the lingering after-effects of military rule", warned the report.
HRW said: "Violence, corruption and impunity are not just problems that government has failed to tackle; they are systemic abuses that flow from the heart of the very same government institutions that should be working to combat them."

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