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Nigeria's Anti-Graft Agency Wants Vice President Barred


Nigeria's anti-corruption agency wants more than 130 candidates in April's general elections replaced as a result of corruption allegations. Gilbert da Costa in Abuja reports the political opposition says the agency is politically motivated.

The opposition Action Congress, Vice President Atiku Abubakar's political party, has reacted angrily to the warning by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission that Mr. Abubakar should be replaced as the party's presidential candidate in April's ballot.

The anti-graft agency had listed the vice president and more than 130 politicians as being too corrupt to stand as candidates in the elections.

The Action Congress, in a swift response, said the commission acted irresponsibly and in an illegal manner and could face a law suit for defamation.

Party spokesman Lai Mohamed says the anti-graft agency was out to victimize opponents of President of Olusegun Obasanjo.

"It is clear that it is aimed at the vice president and other members who have been political opponents of the president. It is clear that EFCC is a willing tool in the hands of Mr. President, and he will unleash EFCC on anybody he does not like or anybody that is a political opponent," Mohamed said.

The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission is not empowered by law to disqualify candidates, but could frustrate politicians who are on its black list and cause considerable political damage.

President Obasanjo has vowed to stop his estranged deputy from running in the election. Mr. Obasanjo blocked the vice president from the ruling party ticket, compelling Abubakar to seek the nomination of the Action Congress.

University of Abuja Political Science Professor Hammed Ojo says the attempt to bar some of Nigeria's leading politicians from contesting the polls could have far-reaching implications for the elections.

"The implication is that it is a warning to the political parties that they should careful not to field these people since they are being investigated," he said. "If you go ahead, there is a likelihood they will be taken to court and may not be able to contest. It is going to have far reaching effect on the nature of electoral competition in Nigeria, and I also think that it might bring some bad blood between the parties."

The 2007 polls will be one of the most hotly contested because the president and many state governors are nearing the end of their second terms and the constitution bars them from seeking a third.

Intense power struggles are taking place at every level.

The frontrunners are a little known governor, a former military ruler, and the vice president.

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