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Senators Challenge Former Nigerian President's Graft Allegations

  • Peter Clottey

FILE - Former Nigerian President Olusegun Obasanjo.

FILE - Former Nigerian President Olusegun Obasanjo.

A Nigerian senator has challenged former President Olusegun Obasanjo to name those in the legislative assembly whom he has accused of financial wrongdoing and provide proof of the alleged behavior.

Obasanjo's accusations were contained in a letter he sent January 13 to the leaders of the Senate and House of Representatives. It expressed his concerns that lawmakers were engaged in corruption and acting with impunity.

Obasanjo also said in his letter that most of the 469-member lawmaking body receives constituency allowances without establishing offices in the constituency, which he said contravened the constitution.

In response, the head of the senate, Bukola Saraki, said his chamber had implemented measures to ensure transparency in its financial management. He also said the Senate’s budget would be made public.

Local media quoted Saraki as saying "bold and progressive reforms" had been implemented "in the management of the finances of the National Assembly.”

Senator Bukar Abba Ibrahim said Obasanjo’s open letter was an indication that the former leader appeared to want to remain relevant in national politics. The former governor of Yobe state called Obasanjo’s accusations regrettable.

Ibrahim also said he was pleased with new measures Senate leaders had implemented to ensure transparency.

“I have been in the Senate for nine years," he said. "I have not taken one kobo [local currency] which I am not entitled to. Nobody has ever bribed me. I have never asked for any bribe from anybody. ...

"All I rely on is my salary and my allowances, which are my entitlements and … it is the revenue mobilization and fiscal commission that determines all these things. So there is no way Mr. President can call me corrupt. ... If anybody thinks otherwise, he should bring it out, analyze it, give us the details and show us where we have gone wrong. Of course we are not afraid of correcting it.”

Possible 'bad eggs'

Asked whether there was a possibility that some of his colleagues had engaged in financial malfeasance or other wrongdoing, Ibrahim said some of the lawmakers could be "bad eggs.” But he said Obasanjo should have presented proof of misconduct by those he accused of being corrupt.

“When you have 360 members of House of Representatives and 109 senators, you cannot say everybody is an angel," Ibrahim said. "There are some, definitely, who are corrupt. But he should have the guts to mention who these corrupt officers are. It is not for him just to condemn the whole institution."

Ibrahim added, “I don’t think Mr. Obasanjo is the right person to call anybody corrupt. If there is anything like corruption, it was during his rule that corruption became institutionalized in Nigeria.”

Ibrahim said Senate leaders would consider whether to bring Obasanjo’s open letter to the floor for deliberation in coming weeks.

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