afrol News, 28 September - Nigerian Vice President Atiku Abubakar, who is a candidate for next year's elections, today was suspended from his party functions for three months over wide-ranging corruption allegations. Meanwhile, Nigeria's anti-graft agency has announced that almost all of the country's 36 state governors are being investigated over corruption suspicions.
Mr Abubakar is to remain Vice-President for now, but has been suspended from all his functions at the ruling People's Democratic Party (PDP) after having been accused of corruption. This means he will not be eligible as the party's official presidential candidate, who is to be elected during the three-month suspension. Mr Abubakar claims he is victim to a fight for power in the party and has denied all claims of corruption.
The Vice President had been criticised for irregularities by the Economic and Financial Crime Commission (EFCC) in a report over alleged "mismanagement, fraud and other irregularities" at the state Petroleum Technology Development Fund (PTDF). The allegations later has led the EFCC to indict Mr Abubakar for what it termed "abuse of office" and caused President Olusegun Obasanjo to go on distance to his Deputy. Mr Abubakar has handed a 15-page response to the EFCC, claiming charges are unfounded.
The Nigerian Senate yesterday decided to probe the alleged corrupt practices at the PTDF, including the Vice President's supposed involvement in the affair. Senate President Ken Nnamani assured that also Mr Abubakar's version would be taken note of, which was welcomed by the Vice President in a statement today.
Meanwhile, EFCC leader Nuhu Ribadu told the Abuja Senate that 31 of the country's 36 state governors were currently being investigated for corruption and that at least 15 of them would be charged in the coming weeks. According to Mr Ribadu, corruption was so widespread in Nigeria's state governments, "all" would be in prison if US legislation and prosecution standards had applied in the country.
Nigeria's governors, who are elected directly in each state, enjoy immunity from prosecution while in office, and the federal government in Abuja has very few possibilities to sack them or lift their immunity. Abuja and national parties however have sufficient powers to foil the re-election of state governors through federal funding.
The federal government has further means of pressure to force governors give up their office and issue new elections. Corruption charges articulated by the EFCC against the governor of Enugu State have already led the federal Senate to urge President Obasanjo to "withhold all allocations" accruing to the state. Also, state parliaments have powers to remove the immunity of their governors.
Nigeria has topped Transparency International's list of the world's most corrupt countries during many years, and only during the Obasanjo administration, a growing number of corruption cases have been uncovered, but mostly on state level. Few federal politicians have yet been charged with corruption, making Vice President Abubakar the most prominent case so far.
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