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Nigerian Senate Committee Resigns Over Corruption Probe

In Nigeria, an entire Senate committee probing corruption allegations against President Olusegun Obasanjo and his deputy, Atiku Abubakar, has resigned. Its members said they had been under pressure from Senate leaders. Reports say the committee had recommended severe sanctions against the president and vice president for alleged misuse of public funds. They are accused of taking money from the Petroleum Development Fund (PTDF) for their own use. (The two have parted ways after major policy disagreements. For one thing, they could not agree on a plan to amend the Constitution that would have allowed President Obasanjo to run for a third term.)

Innocent Chukwuma is chairman of the Transition Monitoring Group, a coalition of 250 civil society organizations. He says the resignations are causing a stir in the country. “It is confirming a suspicion many in Nigeria have all along had that the president and his vice are culpable in PTDF scandal and that federal pressures have been used to suppress the side of the allegations that concerns the president.“

Chukwuma says President Obasanjo has allies in the Senate that could doctor the report before it gets into the public domain. “The members were careful in stating who is trying to stop them from presenting the report. They include the deputy Senate president, the Senate majority leader, who is a high-ranking official of the PDP (ruling party), and of course the other chairmen of the committees.”

Chukwuma says President Obasanjo could still be asked to account for his role in the affair, even if he leaves office. “First there is the moral punishment. Snippets of the report we have received seriously damage the integrity of the president and has in fact put a major question mark on whole anti-corruption campaign.”