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August 31, 2010

Nigerien Activist Urges Regime to Replace Anti-Graft Commission

by Peter Clottey

A human rights activist has petitioned Niger’s military junta leader, Salou Djibo, to dismiss and reconstitute the anti-graft commission of bias and ineffectiveness in rooting out corruption.

Alhaji Iddi Abdou said a majority of Nigeriens have lost faith in the ability of the anti-graft body to investigate and prosecute public officials who are alleged to have stolen state funds.

“Even the president [General Djibo wrote] to this [leader] of this commission to tell him [that] he is not happy with the work of the commission [since its formation]. They have been carrying out their activities very, very slowly.  The transitional regime has six months [before handing over] and Nigeriens are waiting to see the result of the work from this commission,” he said.

Abdou further said that a majority of Nigeriens embraced the anti-graft commission believing that it would effectively deal with corruption before a constitutional administration takes over from the transitional government.

Recently, Niger’s police arrested Seini Oumarou, a former prime minister close to deposed President Mamadou Tandja and three other senior officials on corruption charges. This came after the junta gave the anti-graft commission special powers to seize the assets of suspects ahead of a trial.

Shortly after taking over, the military junta vowed to investigate corruption during deposed President Tandja's tenure and promised elections within the year.

Junta leader Djibo recently said the anti-graft commission was able to recover more than $4 million only two months after its formation.

Meanwhile, in July, the anti-graft body published the names of 200 people it accused of embezzling and ordered the suspects to pay the monies they allegedly stole from the state.

Rights activist Abdou said Nigeriens are disappointed over the poor performance of the anti-graft body’s ability to decisively deal with corruption.

“People are saying that they are not happy [about the commission]. So now, it’s time for the president to change the composition of this commission. Otherwise, we are wasting our time. We are launching a call to the president to change this commission,” Abdou said.