Nigerian governors who wish to tackle the root causes of Boko Haram insurgency should demonstrate that they are ‘transparent and accountable’ to the people by declaring their personal assets, disclosing government expenditures and delivering justice to friends and foes, an official at the U.S. State Department told northern governors on Tuesday.
About eleven governors and a deputy governor from northern Nigeria gathered at the U.S. Institute of Peace, USIP, in Washington DC, on Tuesday for a three day symposium to proffer solutions for a region ravaged by a seven-year insurgency and lagging behind in virtually all development indices.
At least 2.5 million people remain displaced in northern Nigeria following an insurgency that has killed more than 25, 000 people in seven years, and left thousands of women kidnapped, including the Ckibok girls who were abducted in their school more than two years ago.
The insurgency and instability in Nigeria’s northeast have left a region in ruins and in need of money to rebuild at a time oil prices are historically low. With Boko Haram’s strength significantly reduced, the governors who gathered here seemed to be looking at the post insurgency.
The gathering agreed that corruption, injustice, poverty, hunger, illiteracy and lack of inclusiveness in government among other things are the root causes of extremism, and any long term solution would have to tackle them.
Dr. Sarah Sewall, Under Secretary for Civilian Security, Democracy and Human Rights at the U.S. States Department, called on Nigerian governors to ‘build trust’ with their people by being ‘transparent and accountable’.
She said personal disclosure of assets is a pivotal part of being accountable to the people.
Out of 36 governors in Nigeria, including those in northern Nigeria who are in Washington DC, less than two percent have declared their assets publicly.
President Muhammadu Buhari and Vice President Yemi Osinbajo reluctantly declared their assets publicly after making the promise during the campaign. And even that declaration was not detailed and inquiries at the Assets Declaration Office translated to nothing.
The Nigerian governors, who often pledge in public to fight corruption, but refuse to declare their own assets, have refused to follow the somehow example of President Buhari.
Apart from declaring their assets, the governors should also disclose government expenditure daily for people to trace money flow, Dr. Sewall said, adding that a more transparent government would attract more foreign investments and donations.
Besides, she said, the governors have to deliver justice to the people to sustain trust in government. She mentioned the Islamic Movement in Nigeria, who after their members were massacred by the Nigerian army, were recently banned by the Kaduna state government.
Amnesty International had said that close to 400 shiites in Nigeria were killed by Nigerian troops last December and no officer has been held responsible. The troops fired at protesters, they said, to protect the Nigerian Chief of Army Staff, General Tukur Buratai, from being assassinated.
But, the Shiites disputed that version, saying that they were having their annual celebration and had partially obstructed the road and were punished for that. A Commission of Inquiry has said that hundreds of Shiites were killed by the army.
Dr. Sewall said justice and accountability would increase trust in government and urged governors to pursue that goal. They must also ensure they pursue inclusiveness and diversity in the people they decide to partner with.
More importantly, she said, the governors should continue to communicate with their people to sustain the social contract. ”You can never over-communicate,’ she said.
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