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Corruption represents a high risk for businesses in Niger, mostly due to low salaries and weak administrative controls. Corruption is especially rampant in the police and the judiciary, negatively impacting the administration of public services and land. The government of Mahamadou Issoufou has committed to actively address corruption and has made some progress in this regard. Despite high levels of corruption, surveys indicate trust in the government and its institutions. Nigerien anti-corruption legislation is weak, underdeveloped, and poorly enforced. Niger has accessed the United Nations Convention against Corruption and is on its way to aligning its legislation.
Last updated: January 2016
There is a very high risk of corruption in the Nigerien judicial system. The judiciary’s independence is not respected by the executive, and rulings by the Constitutional Court and Supreme Court are often ignored (BTI 2014). High-ranking politicians frequently act with impunity and are rarely subject to judicial action (BTI 2014). Lower levels of the judiciary are permeated by corruption and nepotism, and business ties influence decisions (HRR 2014). Low salaries and a lack of training and resources fuel corruption (FitW 2015). As a consequence, the judiciary functions ineffectively and is overburdened (BTI 2014).
While property and commercial rights are protected by law, the judicial framework does not support their effective enforcement (ICS 2015). Enforcing a contract takes 545 days on average (DB 2016). Investment dispute mechanisms are in place but are often not respected in practice because of a lack of resources and judicial corruption (ICS 2015). There are few lawyers in Niger, which drives the prices for legal aid and makes it inaccessible for a large part of the population (BTI 2014).
The police are one of the most corrupt institutions in Niger, carrying a high risk of corruption (TI, Dec. 2015; HRR 2014). The police are under-resourced and lack adequate training (BTI 2014). Even though Niger has one of the highest levels of public trust in the police in Africa (76%) (AB, Nov. 2015), security forces frequently take bribes from migrants, leading to the recent passage of a law that bypasses corrupt police officers (Guardian, June 2015). Over 80 percent of citizens lack ready access to security services at police posts (AB, Nov. 2014). Border regions are increasingly troubled by crime and violence, which cannot be prevented by the police (BTI 2014).
The Nigerien police force is divided into the national police, which functions under the Interior Ministry and is responsible for urban law enforcement, and the gendarmerie, which functions under the Defence Ministry and has primary responsibility for rural security.
Niger’s public services sector bears a moderate risk of corruption for companies. Ten percent of citizens report paying a bribe or giving a gift to obtain public services, which is significantly less than elsewhere in Sub-Saharan Africa (TI, Dec. 2015). Public services in Niger are inadequate, and major differences exist between urban and rural areas. Approximately 70 percent of the country is without electricity (this figure is much higher in rural areas (AB, Nov. 2014).
Issoufou’s government has targeted corruption in the public sector, leading to arrests and resignations of public officials who abused their office and to the creation of anti-corruption agencies (BTI 2014). Costs arise from burdensome and inconsistent regulations, and a complex regulatory framework and poor physical infrastructure constrain private sector development (ICS 2015). Nevertheless, acquiring public services and licenses is often easier and faster than elsewhere in the region (DB 2016).
There is a moderate risk of corruption in the Nigerien land administration, originating from judicial corruption and weak administrative controls (BTI 2014). Property rights are well-defined and protected by law, but Niger lacks capacity, infrastructure and personnel for adequate administrative controls and effective enforcement (BTI 2014). Property disputes frequently take place, especially in rural areas, where customary land titles are common (ICS 2015). Foreign ownership of land is permitted but requires authorization from the Ministry of Planning, Land Management and Community Development (ICS 2015). Registering property involves fewer procedures than elsewhere in Sub-Saharan Africa and takes around 35 days (DB 2016). Dealing with construction permits is very difficult and costly (DB 2016).
There is a high risk of encountering corruption in Niger’s tax administration. Most Nigeriens are concerned about corruption among tax authorities even as Niger has the highest support for tax authorities in Sub-Saharan Africa; perceived tax compliance is high (AB, Mar. 2014). Tax officials who collect taxes in rural areas often do not transfer the money to the state (BTI 2014). The government of Niger is actively trying to find a good balance between attracting investment and collecting taxes at a fair rate, and taxes are often waived for companies involved in imports, exports and the production of goods in Niger (ICS 2015).
There are no reports of corruption in Niger’s customs administration, primarily due to trade being limited (BTI 2014). Imports and exports are constrained by Niger’s infrastructure. Niger is a landlocked country and relies on the Ports of Cotonou in Benin and Lome in Togo as seaports (ICS 2015). There are few commercial flights in the country, which can raise the costs for businesses (ICS 2015), and further complications stem from rising instabilities in Niger’s neighboring countries (BTI 2014).
Companies seeking to invest in Niger face risks of corruption in public procurement. Rules and regulations are inconsistent and burdensome (BTI 2014), and there exists a weak administrative infrastructure (ICS 2015). Nevertheless, foreign investors enjoy equal opportunities once they understand the system (ICS 2015).
There is a risk of corruption for companies seeking to invest in the Nigerien natural resource sector. It is rated ‘compliant’ with the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (EITI), and the Constitution of Niger demands contracts related to the exploration and exploitation of natural resources be made public. However, the opaque negotiations with the French company Areva, which exports uranium from Niger, suggests that the Constitution is not always upheld (Reuters, Feb. 2015). Areva exports at a minimal tax rate and, as contracts between Areva and Niger are not accessible to the public, it is difficult to explain how uranium accounts for 70% of Niger’s exports but only contributes only 5.8 percent to its GDP (Guardian, Sept. 2015, May 2014; Reuters, Feb. 2015).
Niger’s anti-corruption framework is inadequate and under-developed; the country has no specific anti-corruption legislation. The Constitution (in French) of Niger contains some provisions regarding corruption, but nothing concrete. In addition, Niger has no effective party finance regulation in place, nor does it have an effective auditing mechanism of state spending (BTI 2014). The current government, however, is committed to tackling corruption and is attempting to align Niger’s legal framework with the UN Anti-Corruption Convention, which it has accessed (UNODC, April, 2015). To address corruption, the government has established two anti-corruption agencies (ICS 2015): the Bureau of Information, Claims and Fight Against Corruption and Bribery at the Ministry of Justice (to tackle corruption within the judiciary), and the multi-sector High Authority to Combat Corruption and Related Infractions (HALCIA). Even though HALCIA has received many complaints and has referred around ten to the Ministry of Justice, no prosecutions have been made (ICS 2015). High-ranking officials from the previous administration were indicted for fraud and corruption in 2013 but were provisionally released without any further court dates (ICS 2015). Niger is party to the African Union Convention on Preventing and Combating Corruption.
Under the current government, regulations for the press have eased considerably, earning Niger a ‘partly free’ ranking of its media environment (FotP 2015). Nevertheless, occasional attacks against journalists occur (FotP 2015). Several private outlets compete with state-owned media but are constrained by high tax rates (FotP 2015). In light of the conflict, the government reached out to opposition parties and civil society actors, demonstrating a will to increase social inclusion and political cohesion (BTI 2014).
Civil society is vocal in Niger, though its impact on politics is low (BTI 2014). HALCIA includes representatives from the government, the private sector and civil society (HRR 2014). In 2014, the police arrested Ali Idrissa for calling on the public to protest against a proposed uranium mining agreement during the visit of the French president; Idrissa was released the next day (HRR 2014; Guardian, Sept. 2015).
- World Bank & IFC: Doing Business 2016.
- US Department of State: Investment Climate Statement 2015.
- Freedom House: Freedom of the Press.
- Transparency International & Afrobarometer: People and Corruption: Africa Survey 2015 – Global Corruption Barometer, December 2015.
- Afrobarometer: Call the police? Across Africa, citizens point to police and government performance issues on crime, November 2015.
- United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime: Strengthening the Sahel against Crime and Terrorism – Progress Report, April 2015.
- The Guardian: “Despite the threats, I will not stop fighting for Niger”, 7 September 2015.
- The Guardian: “Corruption stymies Niger’s attempts to stem flow of migrants to Europe”, 22 June 2015.
- Bertelsmann Foundation: Transformation Index 2014.
- US Department of State: Human Rights Practices Report 2014.
- Afrobarometer: Africa’s willing taxpayers thwarted by opaque tax systems, corruption, March 2014.
- Afrobarometer: Developing Africa’s infrastructure: The rough road to better services, November 2014.
- The Guardian: “Areva’s uranium mining deal with Niger receives cautious welcome”, 28 May 2014.
- Reuters: “Special Report: Areva and Niger’s uranium fight”, 5 February 2014.