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Nigerian Governors Face Impeachment on Corruption Charges

Impeachment charges continue to shake Nigeria’s state governments, with the Chief Executives of southwestern Ekiti State, central Plateau State, and south-central Anambra State all coming under attack within the past three days. The cases, which are being spurred by Nigeria’s Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), are part of an anti-corruption drive launched by President Olusegun Obasanjo. They now include investigations of 31 of the country’s 36 governors. Funso Afolayan is Professor of African History at the University of New Hampshire. He explains to VOA English to Africa reporter Howard Lesser why the misappropriation of public funds is receiving such intense public scrutiny all at once across the country, most recently yesterday in Ekiti State.

“There is a deliberate and conscious attempt to bring the stories of corruption to the limelight, as well as take steps to begin to put pressure on the people who are being accused of corruption, either through impeachment process or by bringing the cases to the National Assembly. This is the first time in Nigerian history that we’ll be experiencing this,” he said.

On Monday, Ekiti State legislators came out of hiding in a neighboring town and voted 24-2 to impeach Governor Peter Ayodele Fayose and his Deputy, Mrs. Biodun Olujimi, for diverting state funds into a personal bank account and getting kickbacks from a government-run poultry project. Fayose’s whereabouts are unknown, and Professor Afolayan says he thinks the official may either be in hiding, or living under house arrest, preparing his legal defense.

“When you are under impeachment, and then you have the Commission also after you, it is very natural for the Governor to go into hiding. So, two things could have happened: the Governor could have gone into hiding to be able to prepare his case in order to avoid the possibility of being impeached and then being arrested and prosecuted. It’s also possible that the Governor may be under protection by the government – a kind of semi-house arrest to ensure that he will be able to answer for what he has done without running away or escaping or interfering with the process of investigation, “ said Afolayan.

There has also been tension with large crowds, riot police, and armed guards in Nigeria’s central city of Jos in Plateau State, where another governor, Joshua Dariye, is facing impeachment, also over corruption allegations. Observers say the Plateau State dispute could be part of a larger scale political elections fight being played out at the Federal level between President Obasanjo and his rival, Vice President Atiku Abubakar.

Word also surfaced on Monday of an impeachment notice being served on Governor Peter Obi of Anambra State. Anambra’s previous State Executive, Chris Ngige, was also embroiled in controversy and scrapped by state legislators, in sharp disagreements over expansion and development issues, and agitation by activist elements threatening to press for an independent Biafra. President Obasanjo has been involved in trying to maintain stability and calm in Anambra’s standoff over Biafra.

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