Vanguard (Lagos)

9 August 2012

Nigeria: HRW Asks Clinton to Prevail On Jonathan to Address Insecurity

AHEAD of her visit to Nigeria today, Human Rights Watch, HRW, has urged US Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton to encourage President Goodluck Jonathan to address increasingly deadly violence in northern and central parts of the country.

In a letter to Clinton on Tuesday, HRW noted that much of the violence had been initiated by the Boko Haram sect and urged that issues like pervasive abuses, corruption and impunity should top agenda during the trip.

Clinton, who is scheduled to meet with Jonathan in Abuja today, should also raise security force abuses, corruption, and lack of accountability, the rights body said.

"Nigeria is facing a surge of violence and lawlessness that has blighted the lives of thousands of Nigerians," said Daniel Bekele,Africa director at Human Rights Watch.

"Nigeria's leaders need to confront this violence, whether committed by Boko Haram or the country's security forces."

Attacks by Boko Haram have left more than 1,400 people dead in northern and centralNigeria since 2010. The armed group has targeted police and other security agents, Christians and churches, and Muslims who are critical of the group or perceived as collaborating with the government, HRW said.

The rights group urged Clinton to call on the Nigerian authorities to ensure that civilians at risk of further attacks in northern and central Nigeria are protected, and bring to justice without delay those responsible for the violence;

It urged the Nigerian government to investigate and prosecute without delay those implicated in human rights abuses.

Give a public account of the status and reasons for delays in the corruption cases against senior political figures independence of the EFCC by passing legislation to provide greater security of tenure for the commission's chairperson.

"Impunity and corruption are human rights problems, and they need to be at the top of Nigeria's policy agenda," Bekele said. "Clintonshould use her visit to help put them there."

Security agents have rounded up hundreds of people and routinely detained them incommunicado without charge or trial.

Security forces have also been implicated in extrajudicial killings of Boko Haram suspects and other detention-related abuses. The group claims it is attacking the police in retaliation for security force abuses.

In Nigeria's volatile "middle-belt" region, particularly in Kaduna and Plateau states, inter-communal violence has resulted in the deaths of several thousand people - both Muslims and Christians - in the past four years.

Mobs have hacked to death many of their victims based simply on their ethnic or religious identity, but rarely has anyone been prosecuted for these massacres.

Despite Nigeria's tremendous oil wealth, endemic government corruption and poor governance have robbed many Nigerians of their rights to health and education. These problems are most acute in the north - the country's poorest region - where widespread poverty and unemployment, sustained by corruption, and state-sponsored abuses have created an environment in which militant groups thrive.

Nigeria's main anti-corruption agency, the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), has since 2005 filed corruption charges against 35 nationally prominent political figures, including 20 former state governors. Although the commission has secured four convictions of high-level officials, they faced relatively little or no prison time. No senior political figure inNigeria is currently serving prison time for corruption, Human Rights Watch said

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