Thursday, July 12, 2007

Nigeria: 2 ex-governors arrested on corruption charges

Orji Kalu

2 Nigerian ex-governors arrested on corruption charges

The Associated Press
Thursday, July 12, 2007

ABUJA, Nigeria: Two former state governors have been arrested on corruption charges, Nigeria's anti-corruption watchdog said Thursday.

Orji Uzor Kalu and Saminu Turaki, the former governors of Abia and Jigawa states, were taken into custody late Wednesday, said Osita Nwajah, spokesman for the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission.

Turaki, now serving as a legislator in parliament, and Kalu, who made a failed bid earlier this year for Nigeria's presidency, are accused of conspiracy to steal, abuse of office, diversion of public funds and money laundering.

Opposition members, however, say the ruling party is using the corruption agency to target political rivals.

Nigeria was rated one of the most corrupt countries in the world by Berlin-based watchdog Transparency International.

Despite generating hundreds of billions of dollars in oil revenues since gaining independence from Britain in 1960, living standards have fallen and most Nigerians scrape by on less than US$2 (€1.45) a day. There is virtually no reliable source of electricity or potable water, and few citizens have access to health care or decent education.

Nigeria's new president, Umaru Yar'Adua, vowed to root out corruption after taking power in April in elections widely discredited by international and domestic observers.

Last year, the corruption watchdog announced investigations into 31 of the country's 36 state governors.

The Nigerian constitution gives state governors immunity from prosecution while in office.


What next for Nigeria's corruption crusade?
By Senan Murray
BBC News website, Abuja

Umaru Yar'Adua steps into Nigerian President Olusegun Obasanjo's shoes with a burden to prove to his critics that he is the man for the job and not the outgoing leader's puppet, as he is widely seen.

One of his main challenges - and there are many - is tackling corruption, which is still widespread in the country despite over six years of fighting it.

Although President Obasanjo was often criticised for turning his anti-corruption fight into a political witch-hunt, Nigeria has seen some recent success in trying to minimise corruption.

The country is now 18 places above Haiti on Transparency International's global corruption index after occupying last place for years.

Many analysts wonder whether Mr Yar'Adua, a reclusive and mild-mannered Muslim from the conservative north-western Katsina State would have the political will to take on Nigeria's corrupt but very powerful political class.

But Mr Yar'Adua has promised that there would be no sacred cows in his administration's anti-corruption fight.

"If my son or my father is found to be corrupt, they will not be spared," Mr Yar'Adua, a former Chemistry teacher, told the BBC recently.

"We are determined to intensify the war against corruption, more so because corruption is itself central to the spread of poverty," he said shortly after he was sworn in as president.

But does Mr Yar'Adua possess the political will to challenge the corrupt political system that made him president?

Fat contracts

One man who knows the value of political will in fighting corruption in Nigeria is the leader of Nigeria's anti-graft agency, the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC).

He is going to be his own man and take even harder decisions than Mr Obasanjo
Mohammed Haruna
Political analyst
"Whatever we have achieved in the fight against corruption in Nigeria, it is because we had the political support of the central government," EFCC chairman Nuhu Ribadu told the BBC.

"To fight corruption will require a very strong political will on the part of the leadership. Without it, you can't succeed."

There are many Nigerians who question whether Mr Yar'Adua has that will.

They allege that as governor of Katsina, Mr Yar'Adua awarded fat contracts to a company working as a front for his family and say he is not clean enough to lead an honest campaign against corruption.

Mr Yar'Adua denies the allegations.

But his claims to be an honest politician could be weakened by the controversy surrounding the elections which brought him to power.

Local observers have condemned these as a "charade", while European Union monitors said they were "not credible".


But others who claim to know him well say he will surprise Nigerians.

"He is going to be his own man and take even harder decisions than Mr Obasanjo took," Mohammed Haruna, a public affairs analyst and Mr Yar'Adua's former classmate told the BBC News website.

"Of course, Mr Obasanjo achieved some success with his anti-corruption fight, but the problem was that he picked and chose the people he went after. I don't think Mr Yar'Adua is like that.

"I remember Mr Yar'Adua as an honest and just man while we were in university. If he is still anything like that, then I'd say he'd certainly do better than President Obasanjo."

Others point to Mr Yar'Adua's decision in 2003 to drop his deputy Ahmed Jikamshi, following accusations of graft, as evidence of his zero-tolerance for corruption.

Fighting corruption as the head of Nigeria's central government might not be as easy, as the country boasts a network of very powerful politicians and influential business owners who always want to have a say in the way the country is run.

Story from BBC NEWS:

Published: 2007/05/30 15:44:59 GMT


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