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Nigerian Group Calls for Wider Corruption Investigation

A Nigerian anti-corruption committee has asked President Umaru Yar'Adua to order a full probe into the administration of his predecessor Olusegun Obasanjo. The request follows revelations that energy contracts were rewarded to non-existent energy companies between 1999 and 2007. In response to the findings, the Obasanjo administration said it was trying to improve the poorly performing power industry. Gilbert da Costa reports for VOA from Abuja.

Nigeria's parliament set up a committee earlier this year to investigate why $10 billion of investment in the energy sector failed to end power outages in the country.

The panel found that former president Olusegun Obasanjo awarded $50 million worth of contracts to power companies that did not exist. They also found that $2 billion worth of energy contracts were awarded by the former president without a bidding process. A witness told the committee a company with less than $200 of base capital benefited from the contracts.

Two former power ministers who appeared before the investigative panel denied funds were stolen.

Soji Apampa, of Nigeria's anti-corruption watchdog Integrity, says President Umaru YarAdua can no longer ignore the spiraling controversy over alleged corrupt deals under the previous administration.

"We are hearing that a lot of these projects didn't go through due process, like basic due diligence, things like, 'Is the company even registered?' We are hearing those things were flouted," he said. "Definitely, you can't allow those things to go without a proper investigation; so that it is clear where the decisions came from and how it happened, and for history not to put a question mark over their own time in office. Even the former president should be welcoming of it."

Mr. Yar'Adua came to power last May pledging zero tolerance for corruption, but analysts say the government has sometimes taken an ambivalent attitude toward corruption.

Perennial power cuts in Nigeria, the results of years of under spending on generating capacity and corruption, have stoked public anger and stalled economic development.

Many parts of Nigeria, a big exporter of oil and gas, go without electricity for days, and many businesses and homes rely on generators.