Niger’s military junta has set up a financial commission tasked with fighting corruption and recovering money owed to the uranium-producing West African country, according to a statement read on national television.
The move is in line with populist promises made after the army ousted President Mamadou Tandja in a February coup, but goes against the wishes of diplomats who are keen to see soldiers focusing on a swift transition back to civilian rule.
The commission will be overseen by Major Salou Djibo’s CSRD junta and will tackle economic, financial and tax-related crimes, according to the statement, which was broadcast late on Tuesday night.
“The commission is in charge of recovering amounts (of money) due to the state and its branches, coming up with recommendations and putting forward measures to clean up the management,” the junta said in the statement.
The junta cited rampant corruption as one of its reasons for ousting Tandja in a lightning attack on his office. The junta has sacked 20 top officials working for state-owned companies, including those involved in mining and oil.
Having earned some praise in the early stages of his rule, Tandja drew criticism at home and abroad for his successful 2009 campaign to change the constitution in a bid to remain in power after his second term ran out.
Critics accused him, his family and political supporters of abusing their powers at a time when one of Africa’s poorest nations was attracting a range of investors seeking to tap into vast uranium reserves in the desert north, as well as oil.
The commission will be made up of 40 soldiers, accountants and tax experts, whose work will not end until a new elected government is in place. The junta has vowed to hand over power by February next year.
While warning against witch-hunts, many in Niger have supported the junta’s plans to “clean up” business and politics.
However, after a string of undemocratic seizures of power in the region and soldiers failing to let go of power after making similar promises in Guinea, some diplomats are nervous.
“We’ve told them that it is not up to military government which comes out of a coup to undertake such a big mission of cleaning up a country,” Said Djinnit, the top United Nations diplomat for West Africa, told Reuters earlier this week.
“That should be done by elected and legal institutions,” he added. “It would be good enough for them to make sure that during their short rule, everything is done by the books. That would be good enough.”