BY CHARLES KUMOLU
AHEAD of President Muhammdau Buhari’s visit to the United States of America, the Human Rights Watch has called on President Barack Obama to prevail on the Nigerian leader to translate his anti-corruption rhetoric into decisive prosecution of any former and serving public servant found to have embezzled Nigeria’s wealth.
The group which observed some key areas in the nation’s life that require a workable approach, particularly urged the US President to press on Buhari to immediately investigate and bring to book those involved in the alleged unapproved spending of crude oil earnings by the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation and the Federal Ministry of Finance.
In a 1,196 word letter to President Obama on next week’s visit to the White House by President Buhari the Executive Director of the international human rights monitoring and advocacy organisation, Mr. Kenneth Roth urged President Obama to assist Nigeria in managing its economic, social and security challenges.
The letter partly reads: ‘’ Corruption and weak governance mean that Nigeria’s tremendous oil wealth, which could have been used to improve the lives of ordinary Nigerians, continues to be squandered and siphoned off by the governing elite, leaving poverty, malnutrition, and mortality rates among the worst in the world. These problems are most acute in the north, the country’s poorest region, but also in the resource rich Niger Delta where widespread poverty and unemployment, exacerbated by environmental degradation and corruption, have created popular unrest and facilitated the growth of extremist groups.
‘’ The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission and its public sector counterpart, the Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Commission, have failed to effectively tackle high-level corruption and financial crimes in the country.
‘’A number of senior state-level officials, including former governors, have recently been arrested and face prosecution for corruption. Buhari will need to go further and match his anti- corruption rhetoric during the election campaign with a readiness to confront entrenched corruption and lack of transparency in the conduct of government business. This will include addressing recent scandals around unilateral withdrawals and unapproved spending of crude oil earnings by the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation and the Federal Ministry of Finance as exposed by the office of the Accountant General of the Federation.”
“To this end, we urge you to press Buhari to fully investigate and prosecute, in accordance with international fair trial standards, all cases of corruption implicating senior political figures and improve the independence of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission through greater security of tenure for the commission’s chairperson. We also hope you will encourage the enactment of federal and state transparency laws that require all members of the National Assembly, federal ministers, the President, and state governmental officials to issue and publicize annual declarations of the total value of all personal assets.”
‘’ Against all odds, Nigeria has succeeded in carrying out peaceful presidential and gubernatorial elections. This outcome is a landmark for Nigeria, but the country faces some very serious economic, social, and security challenges in the coming period. We appreciate the cautious approach your administration took with the previous administration and hope you will continue to call for greater respect for human rights and the rule of law as an essential component of Nigeria’s ability to manage these challenges effectively.”