Nigeria’s anti-graft police have charged a former state governor with embezzling 15 billion naira, court papers showed on Thursday, in the first such case since Acting President Goodluck Jonathan assumed executive powers.
Abdullahi Adamu, governor of the central Nasarawa state from 1999 to 2007, is also the first senior official under former president Olusegun Obasanjo’s administration to be charged with corruption in nearly a year.
Jonathan pledged to fight graft when he assumed executive powers three weeks ago from ailing President Umaru Yar’Adua, whose critics questioned his commitment to stopping corruption.
The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) charged Adamu and 19 other former state officials and contractors with 149 counts of corruption on Wednesday at a Federal High Court in Lafia, the Nasarawa state capital, the court papers showed.
No pleas were taken from them because only the ex-governor and one other person were in court. Adamu was granted bail in the sum of 500 million naira and case adjourned to March 15.
More than a dozen former governors and ministers face graft charges in one of the world’s most tainted countries, but Adamu, who was arrested last week, is the first governor to be taken to court since March 2009. He is also a senior member of the ruling People’s Democratic Party.
Nigeria’s 36 state governors wield considerable financial and political power in Africa’s top oil producer, in some cases running budgets larger than neighbouring countries. They also enjoy immunity from criminal prosecution while in office.
Yar’Adua was flown back home last week after three months in a Saudi hospital but is still too frail to rule. He came to power in May 2007 pledging zero tolerance for corruption, but progress slowed in a campaign that was welcomed by Nigerians and foreign donors.
Most of the cases against former governors and ex-ministers have stalled in the courts in the last three years.
In December, a Nigerian court dismissed corruption charges against the former governor of the oil-producing state of Delta James Ibori, who was instrumental in Yar’Adua’s rise to power in 2007. The court cited insufficient evidence.
SOURCED FROM REUTERS