Clinton tells Nigeria to be firmer on corruption

Hillary Clinton -US Secretary of State
Hillary Clinton -US Secretary of State

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton encouraged Nigeria on Wednesday to take a firmer line on corruption and offered U.S. help to implement badly needed electoral reforms in Africa’s biggest energy producer.

Mismanagement and graft over decades have imperilled Nigeria’s development, deterred investment, undermined democracy and deepened conflicts such as the insurgency in the southern Niger Delta and bouts of religious violence in the north.

“We strongly support and encourage the government of Nigeria’s efforts to increase transparency, reduce corruption, provide support for democratic processes in preparation for the 2011 elections,” Clinton said at a news conference with Nigeria’s foreign minister.

“We talked specifically how the United States might be able to encourage the electoral reforms,” she said, adding that the two planned a “binational commission” to tackle a range of issues from Niger Delta violence to electoral reforms.

She gave no details.

Foreign Minister Ojo Maduekwe appeared sanguine over Clinton’s mild criticism, which U.S. officials had said would be tougher in private with Washington’s fifth biggest oil supplier.

“We recognise that when we get criticisms, even from our own people, not all those criticisms are intended to annoy or provoke malevolence. Many of them are based on a genuine concern that Nigeria should do better,” Maduekwe said.

Corruption has been a theme of Clinton’s seven-nation, 11-day trip to Africa, echoing U.S. President Barack Obama when he visited Ghana last month.


She was given an update on a 60-day amnesty period in the Niger Delta, an effort to end years of militant attacks on the oil industry which have prevented Nigeria from pumping much above two thirds of its capacity.

Central Bank Governor Lamido Sanusi said on Tuesday the crisis was costing Nigeria $1 billion a month in lost revenues.

Maduekwe said Nigeria’s president was very optimistic that peace would be restored by the end of the year, adding that oil production levels were already going up. He gave no figures.

“It is improving — just the mere perception that peace is coming back. Amnesty is working, the oil levels are gradually coming up again,” he said.

Clinton said Nigerian defence officials made “very specific” suggestions over how the U.S. military could assist in bringing peace and stability in the Delta.

“We will be following up on those (suggestions). There is nothing that has been decided but we have a very good working relationship between our two militaries,” she added.

President Umaru Yar’Adua took office more than two years ago in Africa’s most populous nation pledging respect for the rule of law but diplomats and analysts say the fight against corruption has faltered under his leadership.

Diplomats in Nigeria, who share concerns about the country’s governance, said they would be watching to see how much of a tough message Clinton was prepared to convey.

But her criticism appeared mild, in line with a wish to push behind the scenes while at the same time improving ties.

In the decade since the end of military rule, elections have been far from exemplary in a country that considers itself the biggest democracy in the black world.

The April 2007 polls that brought Yar’Adua to power were so marred by ballot-stuffing and voter intimidation that observers said they were not credible. A reform bill before parliament is meant to avoid a repeat performance in 2011 polls.

“Nigeria is at something of a political crossroads. Its last elections approximately two years ago were deeply flawed,” said a senior U.S. official travelling with Clinton.

Clinton’s trip to Nigeria comes a month after Obama visited Ghana on his first official Africa trip, seen by some Nigerians as an indictment of their nation’s record on governance.

But Clinton sought to dispel such scepticism, saying Nigeria was a very important trading partner and close friend.

Source: Reuters

Leave A Reply

Your email address will not be published.