Nigeria charges eighth ex-governor with corruption

Michael Boatmang is the eighth governor from the last administration to face graft charges since President Umaru Yar'Adua took office over a year ago, pledging zero tolerance for corruption.

Nigeria charges eighth ex-governor with corruption
Nigeria has charged a former governor of central Plateau state with corruption and money laundering, court papers showed on Saturday.

Michael Boatmang is the eighth governor from the last administration to face graft charges since President Umaru Yar'Adua took office over a year ago, pledging zero tolerance for corruption.

The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) accused Boatmang of embezzling over 1.5 billion naira ($13.3 million) between November 2006 and April 2007 when he served as governor.

He pleaded not guilty to 31 counts of corruption when he appeared before a Federal High Court in Abuja on Friday.

Judge Anwuri Chikere refused Boatmang's oral application for bail, but ordered that he be confined to his home because of his medical condition and adjourned the case to Oct. 8.

Boatmang, who was the deputy to ex-governor Joshua Dariye, a fugitive from British justice, took over when Dariye was impeached by the state house of assembly over graft charges. Dariye was re-instated by the Supreme Court six months after.

Dariye, who skipped bail in 2004 to avoid facing money laundering charges in a British court, is standing trial in Nigeria for embezzlement.

Nigeria's 36 state governors have discretionary powers over millions of dollars of public funds and immunity from prosecution while in office.

Nigeria, Africa's top oil producer is one of the world's most corrupt countries, according to independent watchdog Transparency International.

Many plundered public coffers with impunity, and the sight of some ex-leaders in the dock has had a big impact in Nigeria because until the past four years they were considered untouchable.

But prosecution has been slow and anti-graft activists are worried that there has been no significant progress in the court cases of the seven former governors, some charged more than a year ago and released on bail, signalling a lack of will to see the cases through.

Their prosecution is been closely watched by civil society groups keen to see Yar'Adua's pledges of zero tolerance to corruption followed up by action.

Boatmang is the first ex-governor to be charged with graft since Farida Waziri, a retired high-ranking police officer chosen by Yar'Adua, took the helm at the EFCC last month.

Some observers had questioned Yar'Adua's commitment to fighting corruption after the removal in December of Waziri's predecessor, Nuhu Ribadu, who was credited with the prosecution of several former top government officials.

The EFCC in June charged two former aviation ministers with conspiring to embezzle $165 million meant to improve safety in Nigeria's chaotic aviation sector.

Reuters
Last Mod: 19 Temmuz 2008, 17:15
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