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Former Nigerian Vice President Endorses Calls for Probe


Former Nigerian vice president Atiku Abubakar says a probe of the administration he served is necessary to expose the level of corruption perpetrated during that period. Abubakar engaged his former boss, President Olusegun Obasanjo, in a complex legal and political struggle after the two had a falling out. Gilbert da Costa in Abuja filed this report for VOA.

Atiku Abubakar told reporters over the weekend that he was ready to be investigated over spiraling corruption allegations against the administration.

"I am ready to be probed. I am ready. I know nothing about the oil sector. The president was the minister of oil for all the eight years and he related with only the group managing director. Nobody knew anything about the oil sector. No member of the cabinet can tell you anything about the oil sector. I am as ignorant as anyone of you here," he said.

The Obasanjo government, which was in power between 1999 and 2007, has come under pubic scrutiny following recent revelations of alleged corruption, prompting calls for an official investigation.

A parliamentary committee is investigating why $13 billion spent on the energy sector during Obasanjo's rule failed to end the country's electricity crisis.

Obasanjo, who presided over Nigeria's longest-ever stretch of uninterrupted civilian rule, tried to remove Abubakar over corruption allegations. The battle brought long-simmering tensions between the president and his deputy to a head. Critics say Obasanjo used corruption allegations selectively to frustrate the ambitions of his political opponents.

Abubakar says he would have ended up in jail if not for a court ruling that blocked moves by Obasanjo to sack him.

"There would been contrived charges and I would have been in jail. Why not? Certainly there would not be anything weighty enough to send me to jail, but because it would be contrived, and they would get a judge who will be willing to send me to jail," added Abubakar. "Even with the immunity there were attempts to send me to jail."

Abubakar, who contested the 2007 presidential ballot on an opposition ticket, was equally cynical in assessing the ten-month old government of President Umaru YarAdua, Obasanjo's hand-picked successor.

"We are not moving. Nigeria is such a dynamic country, but I'm afraid we are not moving. How many months are we into the administration? I don't know whether we are moving. They are too slow or they don't even have the ideas," he said.

Analysts say recent allegations of corruption, which implicated the former president, have done considerable damage to the credibility of the administration's widely-heralded "war against corruption."

Nigeria is Africa's biggest oil producer and the fifth-largest supplier of crude to the United States, but remains plagued by poverty, corruption and crime.

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