Africa

Nigeria grapples with insecurity, graft after free poll

Ola Awoniyi

Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan has vowed to harness the potential of the oil-rich country, which remains dogged by poverty, graft and violence.

Nigeria's President Goodluck Jonathan. (AFP)

"I bring you today a message of renewed hope and faith in the immense possibilities that lie ahead," Jonathan said in a national broadcast marking Nigeria's 52nd anniversary of independence from Britain.

"The baton is now in our hands. Let me assure all Nigerians that we shall not fail," said Jonathan, who was elected last year after his predecessor Umaru Yar'Adua died in 2010.

While battling insecurity, "the fight against the scourge of corruption is [the] top priority of our administration. We are fighting corruption in all facets of our economy, and we are succeeding," he said.

With 160-million people, Nigeria is Africa's most populous nation and its largest oil producer, but corruption is rampant. Despite the abundance of oil wealth, Nigeria has been unable to solve basic infrastructure needs, including a steady electricity supply, and thousands of public works projects remain indefinitely shelved.

"We have exposed decades of scam in the management of pensions and fuel subsidy and ensured that culprits are being brought to book," Jonathan said.

He vowed not to interfere with the work of the anti-graft agencies to enable them fight the scourge.

Some people and companies are facing corruption charges following a parliamentary probe that found Nigeria lost $6.8-billion through the fuel subsidy programme between 2009-2011.

Second most improved country
Still, he said Transparency International noted in its latest report that Nigeria is the second most improved country in the effort to curb corruption.

Jonathan said his government has dealt a blow to the electoral malpractice and violence that have blighted most of the nation's past elections, adding that success in this area has been acknowledged globally.

"We have cleaned up our electoral process; our elections are globally acclaimed to be free and fair. Nigeria is now on a higher pedestal regarding elections," he said.

But despite staging clean polls, Jonathan stated his government was still battling the challenges of insecurity and poverty.

He said his administration had taken measures to fight rampant militant activity, including by stepping up cooperation with its neighours in west Africa.

Nigeria's north has been hit by scores of bombings and shootings attributed to the Boko Haram Islamist group, which is suspected of ties to al-Qaeda and has been blamed for more than 1 400 deaths since 2010.

A string of attacks have also hit the country's centre and capital Abuja.

Nigeria is roughly divided between a mainly Muslim north and predominantly Christian south.

Although a 2009 amnesty deal greatly reduced unrest in the Niger Delta region and southeast of the country, sporadic incidents continue to occur, including robberies, piracy and kidnappings.

On Monday, the trial of a presumed militant leader accused of masterminding two deadly bombings at Nigeria's 50th independence celebrations two years ago opened in South Africa, his lawyer said.

Nigerian national Henry Okah is facing trial in South Africa, where he has permanent residence, on charges that he orchestrated the twin car bombings which killed 12 people in Abuja on October 1 2010.

The managing director of Anglo-Dutch Shell branch in Nigeria, Mutiu Sunmonu, said last March that Nigeria was losing $5 billion annually to oil theft. – Sapa-AFP

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