Secretary of State John Kerry made his third visit to Nigeria in 20 months this week, talking in the most explicit terms any top-level American official has used to explain the direct link between corruption and terrorism.
He called corruption a “root cause” of violent extremism.
In remarks Tuesday in Sokoto, Nigeria, Kerry said beating local terror group Boko Haram on the battlefield is “only the beginning of what we need to do.”
Violent extremist groups use humiliation, marginalization, inequality and poverty caused by corruption as recruitment tools, he said.
“The fight against corruption has to be a global security priority of the first order,” he said.
“Bribery, fraud, other forms of venality endanger everything that we hold dear, everything that you value. They feed organized crime. They gnaw away at nation-states. They take away the legitimacy of a nation-state. They contribute to human trafficking. They discourage honest and accountable investment, and they undermine entire communities,” Kerry said.
Nigeria is Africa’s most populous country, with about 185 million people. And it’s Africa’s biggest oil producer, at just under 2 million barrels per day.
But it ranked 138 out of 168 countries and territories included on the latest Corruption Perceptions Index. On the World Bank’s Doing Business Index, which generally measures red tape and bureaucratic interference in the economy, Nigeria ranked 169 out of 189.
“Corruption is not just a disgrace and a crime. It is also dangerous,” Kerry said.
Boko Haram attacks small villages at night, looting homes and taking food and livestock. They burn the homes to the ground, kill fighting-age men, and abduct women and children. In 2014, they abducted about 300 girls from Chibok village in the Northeast.
The terror group has killed more than 20,000 people and displaced more than 2 million. And it has “flung some 7 million Nigerians into hunger, thirst, and desperate need,” Kerry said.
Graft costs the global economy an estimated $2.6 trillion a year, Kerry said. “That’s $2.6 trillion that could be going towards infrastructure, towards health care, towards education, food security, other initiatives . . . that give young people that sense of future.”
Regionally, Kerry said, a group linked to al-Qaida is operating in Brukina Faso. The Lord’s Resistance Army is spreading terror in the Central African Republic and the Democratic Republic of Congo. And al-Shabaab militants are killing people in Somalia.
“There is nothing more demoralizing, more destructive, more disempowering to a citizen than the belief that the system is rigged against them, the belief that the system is designed to fail them, and that people in positions of power, to use a diplomatic term, are ‘crooks’ — crooks who are embezzling the future of their own people,” Kerry said.
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Secretary of State John Kerry’s full remarks in Sokoto, Nigeria on August 23, 2016 are here.
Richard L. Cassin is the publisher and editor of the FCPA Blog. He’ll be the keynote speaker at the FCPA Blog NYC Conference 2016.