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Nigeria's Ex-President's Daughter in Hiding Over Graft


A daughter of former Nigerian President Olusegun Obasanjo has refused to appear in court to answer corruption charges related to a $2.5 million health ministry scam. Iyabo Obasanjo-Bello, a ranking member of the Nigerian senate, has been in hiding to escape arrest by the anti-graft Economic and Financial Crimes Commission. Gilbert da Costa in Abuja attended the court session and filed this report for VOA.

Iyabo Obasanjo-Bello, who heads the senate health committee, is accused of retaining the proceeds of crime by collecting about $80,000 out of $2.5 million of un-spent 2007 budget funds that should have been returned to the treasury.

The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission launched a manhunt for Iyabo when she refused to appear in court on two previous occasions over the health ministry scam.

Authorities filed charges against her earlier this month along with some senior officials of the health ministry.

Iyabo, who has been linked to a number of corrupt dealings under her father's administration, insists the $80,000 was spent on a trip to Ghana by her committee.

In interviews she granted from hiding, the former first daughter said she was a victim of a witch-hunt and anti-Obasanjo sentiments sweeping the country.

Anti-corruption police counsel James Binang says her refusal to appear in court was an act of lawlessness.

"I think we have enough evidence to prove the charge against her. We are still looking for her. If she is sighted in court we will arrest her. While we are looking for her, she is moving from one place to the other," said Binang. "She is not in court, despite press speculation that she would be in court. She is not in court; she has not been to our office to submit herself to the law. So it borders on lawlessness on her part."

Lawyers representing the embattled senator asked the court to dismiss the charges against their client. The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission has applied to the same court for a warrant of arrest for Iyabo.

With a parliamentary panel investigating allegations that about $16 billion were squandered on shady power contracts and other alleged corrupt practices during Olusegun Obasanjo's rule, calls have increased for a probe of his eight years in office. The former president has remained silent on all the accusations.

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