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Nigerian Ex-Governors Charged for Corruption


Nigeria's anti-graft agency Friday charged three former state governors with corruption-related offenses. For VOA, Gilbert da Costa has more from Abuja.

Ex-governors Orji Kalu of Southern Abia state, Saminu Turaki from the northeastern state of Jigawa, and Joshua Dariye of central Plateau state appeared in court for alleged corruption and money laundering.

The three are among 31 current and former Nigerian state governors indicted by the anti-graft agency, the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC). The current governors cannot be prosecuted, because they enjoy constitutional immunity while in office.

Lead prosecutor Rotimi Jacobs says the EFCC has done its homework well, and the charges against the former officials are not frivolous.

"It is for the judge to decide whether the case is strong or weak, it is not for the lawyer to decide," he said. "Our duty is that we don't bring a frivolous case before the court. Our duty is to bring a case we believe in. If we don't believe in a case we don't bring it to court."

The former governors have been remanded in custody, and the case resumes in court on Monday when defense attorneys are expected to file an application for bail.

Mike Ozekhome, counsel for ex-governor Kalu, says his client is entitled to bail.

"Section 36 [of the constitution] prescribes every Nigerian innocent until he is proved guilty, and money laundry is bailable under the money laundering act," he said. "We are operating laws of Nigeria and we must go according to the rule of law. We appeal to the court to grant him bail. He is a former governor and if he wanted to run away he would have run away."

The independent watchdog Transparency International ranks Nigeria as one of the most corrupt countries in the world.

The World Bank estimates about $300 billion of government oil funds are unaccounted for in a country where politicians are said to loot public treasury with impunity.

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