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Nigerian Senate Leader Resigns Amid Bribery Charges

  • Joe Bavier

The president of Nigeria's senate has stepped down under increasing pressure from bribery allegations. His decision follows the recent firing of two government ministers accused of corruption, but the country's anti-graft movement says the government must go further with its prosecution efforts.

The president of Nigeria's senate and the number three in the country's constitutional hierarchy, Adolphus Wabara, used the first session since the Easter recess Tuesday to announce his immediate resignation.

Mr. Wabara, who has been dogged in recent weeks over his suspected role in a bribery scandal involving the now-fired education minister, told senate members he was resigning in order to attend to the allegations against him. He said he would make himself available to investigating panels.

The senate quickly elected Mr. Wabara's fellow ruling party member, Ken Nnamani, to replace him.

A spokesman for Nigeria's Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, which led the initial investigation into the scandal, Osita Nwajah, says the resignation of such a high level official proves that times are changing in Nigeria, which is widely considered among the world's most corrupt countries.

"It is the dawn of a new era in Nigerian public life," he said. "People now know that whatever they do, it is up to the scrutiny of agencies like us. What many people had thought would never happen in Nigeria is happening right before our own very eyes. I just cannot describe how I feel."

Mr. Wabara's resignation follows the firing by President Olusegun Obasanjo of two of his ministers in the last two weeks amid allegations of corruption. The housing minister was fired Monday in a scandal that involves members of Mr. Obasanjo's family.

During a busy day Monday, Nigeria's former police chief was formally charged with stealing and laundering around $100 million during his three years in the job.

In the case of Mr. Wabara, Mr. Obasanjo accused him and six other lawmakers of accepting bribes to pass the 2005 budget in a nationally televised address last month. Mr. Wabara denies the charges against him.