Niger: NGOs complain over alleged loss of $99m in state funds

Nigerien non-governmental organisations have filed a legal complaint over alleged losses of approximately $99m in state funds, one of them has said.

On Thursday, Ali Idrissa of the Nigerien Organisations for Budgetary Transparency and Analysis (ROTAB) said he and other associations combed through an audit of 2021 state spending handed to President Mohamed Bazoum last month. The groups estimated that there were discrepancies of up to 63 billion West African CFA francs ($99m).

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They made an official complaint on Wednesday, he said.

“It’s essential that this allegation be made with the prosecutor’s office so no one can bury the file,” he told the AFP news agency.

The audit, a copy of which was seen by AFP, reported a lack of documents to back the purchase of supplies or justify the construction of infrastructure, fake public tenders, and the “granting of undue advantages” to officials.

It said purchases for supplies to battle coronavirus were made at “unreasonable costs”, though the health ministry defended itself, citing “demand far superior to supply in a climate of general panic” worldwide.

Niger, the poorest country in the world according to the UN’s Human Development Index (HDI), is struggling with a reputation for corruption and volatility.

Bazoum was elected president last year after a campaign in which he made the fight against fraud and corruption one of his core pledges.

On April 10, Bazoum said on Twitter, “about 30 senior state officials, guilty of embezzlement or misappropriation, are currently languishing in prison and will remain there for a long time”.

Later the same month, a judicial source said Niger’s communications minister had been detained in a high-profile embezzlement case dating from when he ran a state corporation.

Mahamadou Zada was being held in relation to a probe into the loss of 3 billion West African CFA francs ($4.8m) from Sopamin, a corporation which manages state holdings in the mining sector, that occurred while Zada was its chairperson between 2013 and 2021, the source said.

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