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Nigerian Groups Clamor for Corruption Probe of Former President


Nigeria's main trades union has endorsed calls by opposition groups for a corruption investigation of former president Olusegun Obasanjo. But as Gilbert da Costa in Abuja reports for VOA, very few expect a full-blown probe to kick off any time soon.

The Nigeria Labor Congress, the country's largest trades union, is pushing for a thorough investigation of the former president over allegations relating to corruption and abuse of office.

At least two groups, including opposition coalition Conference of Nigerian Political Parties, have submitted petitions to the anti-graft agency, the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), over alleged corrupt deals by the Obasanjo administration, running into several millions of dollars.

Abuja-based political analyst, Maxi Okwu, says while a full-fledged investigation could be a distraction, specific cases of corruption should be investigated.

"I don't think the government of YarAdua should set up a committee specifically charged with responsibility to probe the Obasanjo administration," he explained. "What I think should be done is that if instances [of corruption] arise, it should be taken up. Let's forget about wholesale probe, it would go nowhere. Tthat would be just a lot of hot air. But if specific allegations, made by specific individuals or groups are looked into, we will get somewhere."

But the government clearly is not in a hurry to take up the challenge and opponents have questioned its handling of the allegations.

Mr. YarAdua came to power in May pledging zero tolerance for corruption. The EFCC says it is probing about half of Nigeria's 36 former state governors for corruption. At least seven have already gone on trial.

President YarAdua, a former state governor, was plucked from obscurity by his predecessor to run in last April's disputed election. Analysts say Mr. YarAdua owes his election success almost entirely to the support of Mr. Obasanjo.

Some critics say the government is shielding the former president. The government has rejected the allegation, saying anyone with verifiable claims against Mr. Obasanjo should come forward.

The former president, one of Nigeria's all-time top political figures, ruled the 140 million people of Africa's most populous country for eight years, winning elections in 1999 and 2003. He was also a military ruler in the 1970s.

The former leader has been criticized for conducting a witch-hunt of political opponents. Mr. Obasanjo denies any wrongdoing.

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