Nigeria has produced several hundred billion dollars worth of oil since independence in 1960, but ordinary Nigerians have derived appallingly little benefit from all of that wealth. This situation exists primarily because successive governments, both military and civilian, have stolen or misused much of Nigeria’s tremendous oil wealth. The head of Nigeria’s Economic and Financial Crimes Commission has stated that the country lost as much as $380 billion to corruption and waste between 1960 and 1999, the year Nigeria’s current government came to power.
The human rights impact of those losses has been profound, as funds that government could have spent on basic health care and primary education for Nigeria’s citizens have instead been squandered or embezzled. Nigeria’s public schools and clinics have been left to crumble and wither away and Nigerians have suffered greatly from the decay of those vital public services. Accurate statistics do not exist, but one million Nigerian children are believed to die each year before the age of five, and most of those children lose their lives to diseases that are easily preventable or treatable at low cost. The country is also thought to have the world’s second-highest number of maternal deaths each year, trailing only India. Public primary schools have reached the point of nearcollapse in many areas, with many children passing through the system without learning to read.
Meanwhile, corruption has undermined public accountability and fueled political violence and other forms of human rights abuse. Those who speak out against the conduct of those in power have often been targets of violence or intimidation, and officials who commit such abuses are often able to enjoy complete impunity. In mid- 2006, one local government chairman in Rivers shot three of his constituents following an argument about a broken electrical transformer. He continues to occupy his office.