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Prominent Members of Nigeria’s Ruling Party Seek Probe of Spending during Ailing President’s Absence

Prominent members of Nigeria’s ruling People’s Democratic Party (PDP) are asking for a probe of what they call the large-scale looting of government funds. They want acting president Goodluck Jonathan to launch an investigation into the disappearance of billions of dollars of spending bills.

The bills were allegedly signed into law by President Umar Yar’Adua on his sick bed in Saudi Arabia. But some PDP officials and anti-corruption groups say the president was not in a position to have signed the bills. They say close aides of the Nigerian leader diverted some of the funds for private use.

“Part of it is the bill of the president while he was in Saudi Arabia,” says Sina Loremikan, southwest coordinator of the Zero Corruption Coalition.

“There is an allegation that the presidential jet was at [the airport in Saudi Arabia] for almost two and half months and every day they pay in hard currency for the parking of the aircraft.” Some believe that aides padded those bills and kept the extra money for themselves.

The situation is complicated, says Loremikan, by what he calls an internal power struggle in the ruling party over the Yar’Adua health crisis, with some members looking after their personal interest.

“Sincerely, you know they are a bunch of confused persons and they use every opportunity to get relevance, and perhaps [the] election is fast approaching and some of them know that voters will ask some critical questions, so perhaps they are doing window dressing.”

Mr. Jonathan is in a very difficult position, he says, no matter how the probe turns out.
“I know that the man is in a deep dilemma; head or tail, he will not find it easy. If they have their way, they don’t want him to even act [as president] for one second. It is due to public pressure that he is in office.