13 August 2009

Nigeria: Clinton - EFCC Has 'Fallen Off'

Photo: Abayomi Adeshida/Vanguard
President Umaru Yar'Adua, right and US Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton on her arrival for bilateral talks between the Federal Government and American officials in Abuja.

Abuja — The United States Secretary of State, Senator Hilary Clinton, yesterday expressed concern about Nigeria's anti-graft war, saying the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) had "fallen off in the last two years".

She, however, earlier expre-ssed strong support for Nigeria's electoral reforms ahead of the 2011 elections and efforts taken so far by the Federal Government including the granting of amnesty to militants in the Niger Delta.

Clinton, who spoke at a Town Hall Meeting at the Shehu Yar'Adua Centre in Abuja - which was largely controlled by the Transition Monitoring Group, an NGO - as part of activities during her visit, called for the "reinstatement of anti-graft initiative," as was conceived in the beginning.

"The EFCC has fallen off in the last two years. We want to see them start work again as before," she said.

She expressed US support for Nigeria's anti-graft war, saying all those found to have been involved in corrupt practices would be brought to book. She said that already two US citizens implicated in the Halliburton bribe scandal had been convicted.

The former first lady said that the perception of Nigeria as a corrupt country continues to be a problem and that the concentration of wealth at the top to the detriment of the vast majority may prevent Nigeria from attaining its full potentials.

She described as unacceptable a situation where Nigeria cannot translate her huge revenue from crude oil into development of infrastructure.

She decried the failure of government due to corruption and bad governance in African countries.

"Africa does not need more strong men, but good governance," she said adding that "with good governance nothing can stop Nigeria. Oil cannot stop bad governance, but can provide basic infrastructure."

She flayed the win-at-all cost syndrome in electoral battles and called on politicians to put the interest of the nation above self.

"Part of creating a strong democracy is that the losers accept defeat and know that it is for the benefit of the country," she said.

The former US presidential candidate expressed support for the Federal Government's amnesty initiative for militants in the Niger Delta. She said that the political parties need to imbibe internal democracy within their parties and that the National Assembly need to be convinced to pass a strong electoral bill that will ensure the independence of the body charged with conduct of elections.

Earlier at a joint press conference with Foreign Affairs Minister, Chief Ojo Maduekwe, Clinton stated that the US is exploring how best to support Nigeria in its quest for electoral reforms and in bringing about sustainable peace in the Niger Delta.

"I will be talking with my counterpart, the Secretary of Defence and we will through our joint efforts, through our Bi-National Commission mechanism operate. We know this is an internal matter, we know it's up to the Nigerian people and their government to resolve, but we will work to see how we will offer that assistance," she said.

She endorsed Nigeria's "comprehensive political framework approach towards resolving the conflict in the Niger Delta, in co-operating with the region's stakeholders, focusing on the region's development needs," and in granting amnesty to the militants.

Asked what the US and its allies are doing to ensure that the continent's money stashed overseas are returned and that the Western countries do not continue to be a haven for Africa's loot, the former Senator evaded the question and instead urged other African countries including Nigeria to borrow a leaf from Botswana's zero tolerance on corruption, and in deploying resources from mineral resource, to building infrastructure.

Clinton would not comment on whether the violent crises in some parts of the North-eastern region is a manifestation of the incursion of Al-Qaeda into Nigeria, but warned that the global fight against terrorism requires concerted effort of all nations.

She acknowledged Nigeria's enviable contributions in peacekeeping efforts, fight against human trafficking, reduction in trade barriers and international cooperation, among others.

Clinton leaves Nigeria for Liberia today in continuation of her seven nation African tour.

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