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Nigeria Senate Approves New Anti-Graft Chief


The Nigerian senate has approved a new head for the country's anti-corruption agency, brushing aside objections by some critics that the nomination violated the law. Gilbert da Costa in Abuja has more in this report for VOA.

Senators voted unanimously on Thursday in support of the appointment of Farida Waziri, a retired high-ranking police officer chosen by President Umaru Yar'Adua last month to head the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC).

The EFCC was created five year ago to stem Nigeria's reputation as one of the world's most corrupt countries. When he took office a year ago, Mr. Yar'Adua pledged zero tolerance for graft in Nigeria.

But critics say the removal of former EFCC head Nuhu Ribadu in December and the appointment of Farida Waziri raises questions about his commitment to fighting graft.

Nigerian newspapers have reported that Waziri's appointment was sponsored by some ex-governors who are facing corruption and money-laundering charges.

Farida Waziri has rejected the reports, saying there would be no "sacred cows" in the war against corruption while she heads the anti-corruption agency.

Maxi Okwu, an Abuja-based lawyer and campaigner, says the controversies are distractions for the war against graft in Africa's top oil producer.

"Such a sensitive agency, the chief executive ought not to have a controversial antecedent," he noted. "I am worried about the controversy and issues arising around her nomination. The legal process was not followed in the re-assignment of Mallam Nuhu Ribadu. The law is that the senate approves removal and approves appointment. I am not aware of a senate resolution removing Ribadu. These are very untidy developments and begin to point at some public worry as to what is the agenda of the president."

Officials estimate that half of Nigeria's budget is looted or wasted. At least eight former governors from the previous administration, had been charged with corruption and money laundering since they lost immunity from prosecution when their terms ended last year. All are members of the ruling Peoples' Democratic Party.

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