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Group finds Nigeria oil state misused funds

February 01, 2007|From the Associated Press

LAGOS, NIGERIA — A human rights group said Wednesday that its study of one of Nigeria's oil-producing states found that officials squandered or stole public money, while some hospitals required patients to bring their own beds and many schools lacked basic supplies.

New York-based Human Rights Watch made the allegations after studying government finances in the state of Rivers, one of six oil-producing states in Nigeria.

"Many state and local officials in Rivers have squandered or stolen public money that could have gone toward providing vital health and education services," said Peter Takirambudde, Africa director at Human Rights Watch.

The Rivers governor's office rejected allegations of wrongdoing, saying government audits had not turned up any problems.

With a 2006 budget of $1.3 billion, the governor's office handed out more than $90,000 a day in unspecified "contributions" and budgeted $10 million for the year for "entertainment and hospitality

The office of Gov. Peter Odili also budgeted roughly $65,000 per day for travel. Human Rights Watch didn't say how many officials were in the office.

Under Nigeria's federal system, the central government disburses money to officials in the country's 36 states.

Researchers found Rivers clinics often required patients to bring beds and medicine and that only one of 15 schools surveyed had textbooks.

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