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Nigerian Leader Say's He's Not Behind Corruption Probe Of His  Predecessor

Nigerian President Umaru Yar'Adua says he has washed his hands of the investigations of former president Olusegun Obasanjo. He says they are distracting attention from his policies. But presidential spokesman Olusegun Adeniyi says his boss will not cancel the probes because of his respect for the rule of law.

Anti-corruption groups say President Yar'Adua's comments could damage the campaign against corruption. Debo Adeniran is chairman of the group Coalition Against Corrupt Leaders in Nigeria.

He says Mr. Yar’Adua’s comments were not unexpected. “We are not surprised that he may want to play the ostrich because his predecessor, that is General Olusegun Obasanjo, actually had a hand in everything that brought him to power.” Adeniran says the timing of the announcement was not particularly significant.

“He can make the comment at any time to a very large extent because [President Yar’Adua] needed to convince [Mr. Obasanjo] that he is not hand-in-glove with those who are carrying out the probes…. He still has a case to answer at the Supreme Court and he might think that the former president still has influence over those who are going to carry out the judgment…. [Mr. Yar’Adua may also be concerned] about the Nigerian factor which makes people believe that they can influence anybody [to] dance to their tune no matter how sensitive or unpopular the case may be. So he might be thinking he needed the support [of] his predecessor even to get a nod from the Supreme Court to help him to go ahead.”

Adeniran says President Yar’Adua still lacks the skill to wield the enormous powers of the presidency. “He thinks that the former president still has influence among all the lawmakers at the national level, even in different states of the federation. He believes that if people feel he is happy with what is going on at the National Assembly, the ex-president’s men can go to town and use their enormous wealth [that] they have kept in their coffers to influence the lawmakers such that he can be impeached.”