Nigeria sets up special courts to battle graft
September 29, 2017 | 4:32 pm| | | Start Conversation
Nigeria is setting up special courts to speed up the trial of corruption cases and give a boost to President Muhammadu Buhari’s efforts to fulfill an electoral pledge to stamp out graft in Africa’s biggest oil producer, Information Minister Lai Mohammed said.
“The chief justice has given the directive to all the 36 states to designate one court for the trial of corruption,” Mohammed said in an interview on Thursday in London. “Taking out corruption cases and putting them in special courts is going to fast-track the prosecution.”
Buhari, whose election in 2015 marked the first time in Nigeria’s history an opposition candidate defeated an incumbent, campaigned on ending widespread corruption and reforming the country of more than 180 million people. Instead, a plunge in output and prices of crude, the nation’s main export and source of two-thirds of government revenue, sent the economy into its biggest slump in a quarter century.
While the government has increased infrastructure spending in the past two years, with the economy just emerging from recession, it will take longer for more people to experience the improvements Buhari promised during his campaign, according to Mohammed. Output increased in the second quarter, ending its worst slump in 25 years as farm and oil activity increased.
“As soon as the multiplier effects are being felt, it will create more jobs and firm up the economy,” he said.
Buhari spent five months in two trips to London this year for treatment of an undisclosed ailment, sparking concern about his ability to finish his four-year term and possibly seek re-election.
Only Buhari “in his own good time” can tell the public about his health and whether he’ll seek re-election in 2019, according to Mohammed.
“I think Mr. President is more preoccupied right now with delivering on his 2015 electoral promises,” he said. “I don’t think his focus now is on whether he’ll run or not.”
For the government, ending the recession is a “first significant step” to be followed by further efforts to end the nation’s dependence on oil by expanding infrastructure to help diversify the economic base, Mohammed said.
“More important for us is that this recovery proves we correctly diagnosed the problems of the economy and that we applied solutions that worked,” he said.
While investors have expressed misgivings about the government’s exchange-rate controls and steps taken to prop up the value of the local currency, Mohammed said the system in place now “is working for us.” The central bank’s decision to create a separate foreign-exchange trading window for importers and investors “has eased concerns” in the financial market, he said.
The administration’s guiding principle is to remain committed to the war on graft and use the savings for national development, Mohammed said. Nigeria ranked 136 out of 176 countries on Transparency International’s 2016 Corruption Perceptions Index.
“If you want to fight corruption, you’ll have to get ready for corruption to fight back. And corruption is fighting back very, very viciously,” he said. “But despite that, I think the government remains very focused and very committed.”
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