The indictment of a former Nigerian state governor has prompted President Umaru Yar’Adua to end the practice of sustaining legal immunity for acting governors. Mr. Yar’Adua has pledged what he calls zero tolerance for corruption since taking office. He announced his policy shift last week at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, one day after prosecutors charged former Edo State Governor Lucky Igbinedion with more than 150 counts of embezzlement. The ex-governor, who is the eighth Nigerian state chief executive to be charged in recent months, turned himself in last Monday. He is also accused of money laundering and stealing more than 25 million dollars during his eight years in office.
International studies professor Dan Fulani of Nigeria’s Ahmadu Bello University says the facts demonstrate that President Yar’Adua means business.
“All the governors who have been picked up were covered by immunity. One after the other, they all have questions to answer, and in the logic of innocence before being tried, all of them are not being brought to book right after the other. But the fact that they have contributed to Yar’Adua’s election victory, and now he is distancing from them makes people believe that he wants to be serious,” said Fulani.
The tight controls placed on Igbinedion since he left office in May of last year have kept the Edo State official on the run from authorities. But Professor Fulani says the ex-governor was not able to get far enough away and had no choice but to surrender last week.
“It was made clear to him that he could not run in any part of the world. He could not run to America. He could not run to Europe. The international community was clearly cooperating with Nigeria to check corruption issues, and I think that’s what makes it possible for this to get him,” he said.
With his pledge made in Davos last week before an international audience, Fulani says President Yar’Adua is hoping to demonstrate Nigeria’s commitment to bring down one of the highest corruption rates in the world.
“Across the nation, the tendency is that the people are happy that come of it, the government or the president is coming openly to challenge corruption. And they liked (former President Olusegon) Obasanjo before him, but this time around, it seems to be more tenacious. It seems to be more committed. And if it can be done at that level, and successive actions can be sustained, then it means that we are in it for good,” he said.