High levels of defence corruption risk threaten security and stability in Niger

6th December 2019

6 December, NiameySecurity and stability in Niger are threatened by high levels of corruption risk in its national defence sector, according to new research by Transparency International – Defence & Security.

Niger’s defence sector scores poorly in the 2020 Government Defence Integrity Index, which is today being launched in Niamey. Receiving a majority of E and F grades, indicating either a “very high” or “critical” risk of defence corruption, the analysis assesses corruption risk across five key areas: political, financial, operations, personnel and procurement.

But Niger’s overall score of 22/100 places it above the regional average of 18/100, with levels of corruption risk in the country’s political, financial and procurement categories lower than in the region, but higher in terms of personnel and operations.

Steve Francis, OBE, Director of Transparency International – Defence & Security, said:

“In recent years, Niger has become increasingly affected by the conflict and insecurity in neighbouring Mali, which has quickly spread across the Sahel. With Niger now a key member of the G5 Sahel Joint Force, contributing over a thousand troops to the UN peacekeeping mission in Mali and receiving increasing amounts of military and technical assistance from foreign donors, the country is on the frontline of the regional struggle against extremist groups.

“Given the empirical link between corruption and conflict and the corrosive effect of corruption on defence capabilities, it is essential for Niger to accelerate its efforts to improve the governance of the defence sector and strengthen civilian democratic oversight of the defence apparatus. We urge the Nigerien government to improve the access to defence information of legislative and oversight bodies and take steps towards improving transparency and external oversight in procurement processes. Building the integrity and effectiveness of Niger’s defence sector will enhance its ability to respond to multiplying regional security threats and bolster public trust in defence and security institutions.

“With high corruption risks across national defence sectors in West Africa, tools like our Government Defence Integrity Index are more important than ever. By highlighting areas where safeguards against corruption are weak or non-existent, campaigners on the ground and reform minded military leaders and politicians can use these results to push for real change. Taking action to improve transparency and closing the loopholes which allow corruption to thrive is a critical step in building effective and accountable defence and security forces.”

 

These findings come against a backdrop of rising insecurity in Niger and the Sahel more broadly. Attacks by extremist groups against civilians and Nigerien defence and security forces are rising, while the protracted conflicts in Mali and Libya are increasingly spilling across the border into Niger. Mounting instability in Burkina Faso, Northern Nigeria and the Lake Chad region are also threatening to seriously impact the security of populations along Niger’s southern border and are turning the landlocked nation into a critical base in the fight against violent extremism.

Despite recent promising government initiatives and reforms, attempts to improve defence governance in Niger are hindered by high levels of secrecy and defence exceptionalism, which severely limit oversight and control of defence institutions by parliament and audit mechanisms.

The capacity of the National Assembly to hold the government to account is hampered by a lack of technical expertise and limited access to information, whilst a general lack of engagement between the defence establishment and civil society further limits the scope of civilian democratic oversight.

Financial oversight is also curtailed by the lack of a detailed defence budget made available to the legislature. Even the parliamentary Defence and Security Commission is presented with only abbreviated information when it comes to spending on secret items and military intelligence, whilst audit mechanisms are limited in terms of capacity and access to information. This lack of oversight is mirrored in Niger’s defence procurement process, with many purchases excluded from normal public procurement procedures. Moreover, reports from the Inspector General, along with the military acquisition plan are strictly confidential, thereby hugely hindering external control.

Personnel management would be improved through a greater emphasis on addressing corruption, for instance through revamped Codes of Conduct and specific anti-corruption training which are currently lacking. Equally, the nomination and recruitment processes at higher levels are shrouded in secrecy, opening the door for nepotistic practices.

Finally, Niger’s defence sector scores very poorly in terms of operational risk, with its military doctrine lacking an appreciation of corruption as a strategic threat during deployments.

At a time of growing regional instability, Transparency International – Defence & Security urges the Nigerien government to consider heightening efforts to improve civilian democratic oversight of the defence sector and strengthening the integrity of the armed forces to better respond to the security threats with which it is faced.

 

Notes to editors:

The full, country-specific Government Defence Integrity Index (GDI) results for Niger and West Africa as a whole are available at https://ti-defence.org/gdi/

The GDI assesses the existence, effectiveness and enforcement of institutional and informal controls to manage the risk of corruption in defence and security institutions.

Our team of experts draws together evidence from a wide variety of sources and interviewees across 77 indicators to provide a detailed assessment of the integrity of national defence institutions, and awards a score for each country from A to F.

The GDI was previously known as the Government Defence Anti-Corruption Index (GI). The Index underwent a major update for the 2020 version, including changes to the methodology and scoring underpinning the project. This means overall country scores from this 2020 version cannot be accurately compared with country scores from previous iterations of the Index.

Subsequent GDI results will be released in 2020, covering Central and Eastern Europe and Latin America, G-20 countries, the Asia Pacific region, East and Southern Africa, and NATO+.

 

Contact:

Harvey Gavin

harvey.gavin@transparency.org.uk

+44 (0)20 3096 7695

++44 (0)79 6456 0340