Nigeria: Corruption, Different strokes for the President’s men

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Corruption charges brought against a former Nigerian Governor, an ally to Nigerian president M. Umaru Yar’ Adua has been dropped, to the dismay of the Economic and Financial Crime Commission (EFCC).

Mr. James Ibori, former governor of the oil-rich Delta State was accused of laundering millions of dollars, and was indicted of 170 financial crimes. However a federal court has dropped all charges against the influential politician; a decision the EFCC has described as “hasty”.

Mr. Ibori was indicted by the EFCC in December 2007, and a UK court subsequently froze his assets worth $35m. Former EFCC head Nuhu Ribadu was fired from his post after he, allegedly received death threats. He was eventually forced to flee the country, after the charges were brought against Mr Ibori.

Mr Obori who is a strong ally of President Umaru Yar’Adua, received an official salary of about $25,000 while he was governor, and according to the local media he had amassed immense wealth during his term in office.

Despite the federal court ruling, the EFCC has vowed to appeal.

Last week, on Dec. 9, a leader of a rising opposition party in Nigeria was arrested by the EFCC; a situation that led to some politicians accusing the authorities of trying to scamper their plans to unite against the ruling party.

Attahiru Bafarawa, who ran for president in 2007, was arrested whilst in a meeting trying to form an opposition party for an election due in 2011.

The opposition comprises former presidential candidate Muhammadu Buhari, who led Nigeria between December 31, 1983 and August 27, 1985 after a coup, and ex-Vice-President Atiku Abubakar (from 1999 to 2007), who have both accused the EFCC of being a tool for the government to silence its critics.

The opposition accuses the ruling party of running the country into the ground and acting as if Nigeria were a one-party state. The opposition parties had said they were uniting in order to save the country.

Analysts have since questioned the independence of the electoral commission, which refused to register a coalition of opposition parties during the 1980s — when the country was under the leadership of President Shehu Shagari of Nigeria’s National Party — and is being criticized for partisanship and failure to conduct free and fair elections.

But in the case of Mr. Ibori, it is the EFCC versus the Federal court, in a backdrop of a questioned transparency and justice.

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