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Nigerian President Asks Parliament to Impeach VP

  • Gilbert da Costa

Nigerian President Olusegun Obasanjo is asking the senate to begin impeachment proceedings against his vice president. The president has written to the senate Thursday, providing details of a corruption investigation allegedly involving the vice president.

Nigerian President Olusegun Obasanjo sent an impeachment request to the senate, accompanied by a report, accusing his vice president, Atiku Abubakar, of fraud.

Analysts see the investigation as part of Mr. Obasanjo's plan to control who succeeds him in elections next year, which should mark the first democratic handover of power in Nigeria since independence from Britain in 1960.

Mr. Obasanjo cannot run again because the senate in May rejected a proposed amendment to the constitution, which would have let him run for a third term. Abubakar lead the campaign to stop the amendment.

He subsequently began his own campaign for the presidency.

Abubakar has denied any wrongdoing, and said he has no intention of resigning his office.

Senators are expected to debate the matter next week.

Tokunboh Afikuyomi, a senator from Lagos, says he does not believe the president can get the necessary support in the senate required for impeachment.

"If he wants it to be an impeachment process, he is supposed to start from one-third of members. That is not the case now. So, I really don't know what we are supposed to do now. If you look at the rules of the senate, if you look at the constitution of Nigeria, there is no provision for what is happening. So, I really don't know," he said.

Political observers are warning that Nigeria's fragile democracy could come under tremendous pressure, if the president pushes for impeachment of his deputy.

Maxi Okwu, a lawyer and political analyst in Abuja, says the president may not get the two-third vote in the national assembly to remove Abubakar, and that the animosity between the two men can only worsen in the coming days.

"It is going to be a very, very ugly situation, where the vice president and the president are openly fighting themselves," he said. "Government will be bogged down, government will be affected, personalities in government will be sort of trying to dance between the two predators, and a lot of mud-slinging will go on. Government secrets will be channeled to the media, for exposure. So, it is a very unhealthy development."

Mr. Obasanjo has won international acclaim for a high-profile war on graft in one of the world's most corrupt countries. But critics at home say he uses it to persecute political foes.

The ruling People's Democratic Party last week adopted guidelines that would force candidates to pass a so-called integrity test before registering for the party's primaries in December.

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