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Nigerian Senate Panel: Vice President Guilty


A Nigerian Senate panel said the country's vice president improperly diverted more than $100 million in public funds to private interests and recommended prosecution that could end his presidential campaign. For VOA, Gilbert DaCosta has more from Abuja.

In a report presented to the Nigeria's senate, an investigating panel said that Vice President Atiku Abubakar helped divert $145 million from the Nigerian government to banks where some of the money was "fraudulently converted as loans" for three companies connected to Abubakar.

The report called for Abubakar's prosecution, but, while in office, Abubakar is protected from criminal indictment. A Senate impeachment, however, could strip him of his protection and disqualify him from April presidential elections. He could also then be charged with crimes.

Abubakar's campaign has rejected the charges. It said in a statement that Abubakar's actions were proper, with the funds originating in a fund specifically designed for investments in the private sector.

Senator Titus Olupitan, one of 13 members of the committee that issued the report on the diversion of funds, rejected its findings.

"The committee did not bother to call for records of the contracts to verify the legitimacy or otherwise of these contracts or to confirm that they were in accordance with due process or whether the contracts were actually executed or not," he said.

Abubakar fell out with Obasanjo last year after helping stop a drive by Obasanjo supporters to amend Nigeria's constitution and allow Obasanjo another presidential term. Abubakar has in the past dismissed the allegations as part of a plot to keep him from running for Nigeria's top office. The president himself is constitutionally barred from seeking a third term.

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