Mrs May’s search for “new partnership” led her to Nigeria last month. She took a delegation of twenty-nine business figures to ‘showcase opportunities for a Global Britain,’ promising that the UK government will invest £3.5bn in African projects in the next four years.
Yet Nigeria is dogged by government corruption on a ‘billions’ scale. In October, President Buhari sacked the Federal Government Secretary, Babachir Lawal, on corruption allegations. The National Intelligence Agency head, Ayodele Oke, was sacked last month after US$43 million in cash was found in his apartment. Diezani Alison-Madeke, the former oil minister now living in London, is accused of bribery, fraud, money laundering and misuse of public funds and has been ordered to forfeit $65 million in property and cash. In 2015 PBS claimed she is believed to have personally diverted $6 billion from the Nigerian treasury.
There are, however, worse things than corruption, even in business. Nigeria has not criminalised the use of torture. The Nigerian press detail cases regularly, including last month’s torture of Amadu Atajan, 18, accused of stealing a phone. He claimed from hospital that soldiers hung him upside down and beat him unconscious with iron rods. He died of internal bleeding three days later.
Nigerian human rights groups say security officials treat torture as part of their job, and claim detainees are regularly tortured to death, hung on poles over fires, tossed into pits and interrogated using electric batons. Amnesty and Human Rights Watch say beatings, suspension, electric shocks, sexual violence, and ripping out fingernails and teeth are common. Amnesty cite the Special Anti-Robbery Squad in Awkuzu and Sector Alpha Military Facility in Yobe as particularly notorious. ‘Mahmood,’ a fifteen-year-old schoolboy, told them he was forced to watch extra-judicial executions of other detainees, whilst a 38-year-old activist told Human Rights Watch that after being arrested in 2016 in the Niger Delta he was flown to Abuja on a presidential jet, then beaten, staked out in the sun, and given genital electric shocks to force a false confession of militant involvement.
The most feared militants are Boko Haram, still dangerous, particularly in the North-East. Security forces reportedly pick up hundreds of innocent people in their search for them, torturing them into admitting involvement. Moses Akatugba was 16 when he was arrested by the army and tortured into ‘confessing’ to militancy and sentenced to death. He remains on death row. Women and girls who have escaped Boko Haram’s rule are subjected to violence and sexual abuse by security forces in punishment for their imagined cooperation.
It’s not easy to work with torturers without besmirchment. Amnesty is currently calling for a criminal investigation into the oil giant Shell regarding allegations it was complicit in human rights abuses by the Nigerian military in the 1990s, citing evidence it claims amounts to “complicity in murder, rape and torture.”
You don’t get this sort of thing at the EU. One wonders if Mrs May mentioned it whilst bopping for Global Britain. Let’s hope the noble corporates at least understand the nature of the dance floor.