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Nigeria's New Leader Discloses Personal Wealth

Nigerian President Umaru Yar'Adua has publicly declared his net worth, an unprecedented move that many see as underscoring his commitment to fight corruption. Gilbert da Costa reports for VOA from Abuja.

Nigerian President Umaru Yar'Adua went public Friday, declaring his personal wealth at about $5 million. He said he opted to go public because of his pledge to do so if elected.

This is the first time in Nigeria's history that a sitting president has disclosed his assets. Public officials have to declare their assets to authorities by law, but are not compelled to make them public.

Hammed Ojo, a political science professor at the University of Abuja, says the president's move could induce others to publicly declare their assets.

"I don't see anything extreme. I expected that of him," said Ojo. "Moreover that he wants now to use it as an indication of his personal integrity and transparency. And I think he will like other political leaders to follow suit."

The corruption watchdog Transparency International often classifies Nigeria as one of the world's most corrupt countries.

The World Bank says more than $300 billion in public funds may have been stolen over decades in Africa's largest oil exporter.

One group that is committed to changing Nigeria's profile as a corrupt nation is the Fix Nigeria Initiative. Chido Onumah, the group's spokesman, says Fix Nigeria is aiming its campaign at the young.

"Our strategy is to develop what we call integrity clubs across the country, both at the tertiary institutions level, among secondary school students," said Onumah. "Just to begin to talk about corruption, to understand the various dimensions of corruption, and the effects of corruption. And the fact that as young people, they have a role to play in the fight against corruption."

In addition to his personal wealth, Mr. Yar'Adua also said he owns several buildings across northern Nigeria, where his family has substantial business interests.