Niamey – Arsonists set fire to part of Niger’s Justice Ministry on Tuesday, destroying files used in anti-corruption investigations including probes into a number of judges, the government said.
The government said the blaze had destroyed paper archives dating back decades as well as information gathered from a hotline that has led to the investigation of around 20 judges in the West African country. Some documents in digital form were saved.
The fire is a setback to a drive by President Mahamadou Issoufou to stamp out corruption.
Niger is ranked as the 54th most corrupt country in the world in Transparency International’s latest corruption perceptions index.
Justice Minister Marou Amadou told a news conference the blaze, which raged for two hours, would not sway efforts to drive out corruption.
“This was arson and the state will do everything needed to find those responsible,” he said.
Niger is rich in uranium and is Africa’s latest crude oil producer, but suffers perennial food shortages and is battling years of deep-rooted corruption, particularly under president Mamadou Tandja, who was overthrown in a 2010 coup.
A report by the government said the state lost over $170m through embezzlement and other corrupt practices during Tandja’s 10-year rule.
Niger will build temporary offices for the Justice Ministry before resuming work, and will attempt to reconstruct the files, Amadou said.