London — Deep-rooted corruption in the defence sector is crippling the Nigerian military in the fight against Boko Haram, according to a new report by Transparency International. To effectively combat Boko Haram, Nigeria's international partners must build anti-corruption measures into all defence deals.
Since 2011 50,000 people have lost their lives in the conflict with Boko Haram, whilst millions have been displaced. Transparency International's new report, Weaponising transparency, has found that corrupt military officials have been able to benefit from the conflict through the creation of fake defence contracts, the proceeds of which are often laundered abroad in the UK, US and elsewhere. The kleptocratic capture of the Nigerian defence sector has seen over US$15bn stolen, leaving the military without vital equipment, insufficiently trained, low in morale and under resourced. This has crippled the Nigerian military in fighting an aggressive ideologically inspired enemy, such as Boko Haram.
President Buhari has made significant moves to take on the secretive and powerful defence sector, the pace of reform in the Ministry Of Defence is slow and the military remains critically vulnerable to theft and abuse by senior defence officials. The international community has also done little to prioritise corruption in their engagement with the military, or to help shut down the international financial networks that facilitate the large scale theft public funds.
Katherine Dixon, Director Transparency International Defence and Security, said: "With oil prices low and conflict at a high, defence has become the new diesel for Nigerian kleptocrats. Taking on the defence sector was a bold move by President Buhari but efforts to bring corrupt officials to justice are not enough. Ambitious anti-corruption reforms are needed to prevent the next US $15 billion quietly leaving Nigeria through the back door.
"Corruption in Nigeria is not just a problem for Nigerians, but a concern for all of those looking to tackle violent extremism around the world. Entering into blind defence deals that ignore the rampant corruption in Nigeria's defence sector means international partners could inadvertently be giving rise to Boko Haram. Likewise the doors to allow corrupt officials to launder their ill-gotten gains out of Nigeria should be slammed shut, through the active denial of visas and other domestic legislation that targets corrupt money."
"With Buhari's first term soon to end, the international community may soon find itself without a Presidential ally in this fight – now is the time to act."
In addition to the need for the international community to prioritise anti-corruption in defence deals, Transparency International is recommending Nigeria undertake a series of reforms that include:
- Develop a unified defence sector anti-corruption strategy
- Extend public access to defence and security information
- Monitor confidential procurements
- Regulate secretive security votes
- Protect whistle-blowers