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Niger Police Arrest Former Prime Minister, Senior Officials

Seini Oumarou, prime minister of Niger (file photo)

Niger's ex-prime minister and three other former senior officials all accused of corruption have been charged and released on bail.

Niger police arrested former prime minister, Seini Oumarou, and three other former senior officials Thursday. They were accused of embezzling public funds.

The arrests were part of an aggressive anti-corruption campaign launched by the military that took power in a February coup against President Mamadou Tandja.

The military government vowed to investigate corruption during Mr. Tandja's more than 10 years in power and promised elections within the year.

Mr. Tandja's political party has denounced the arrests of former officials as arbitrary and illegal, but military government leader General Salou Djibo said he will not back down.

General Djibo says the anti-graft commission will finish what it started. He say this clean-up began two months ago and the government has already recovered more than $4-million. He says people who owe money should start selling things to raise money because if they do not pay it back, they will go to prison. Djibo says he is not backing down and people will pay.

In July, the anti-corruption commission published the names of 200 people accused of embezzlement as well as the amounts of money they need to pay back. Ex-prime minister Oumarou has been called to return $500,000.

This month, the military government authorized the commission to seize the money and property of suspects before trial.

General Djibo says all citizens are part of the state and everyone should take responsibility for its welfare. He says the state's money should return to state treasury by whatever means necessary.

General Djibo said the recovered funds have been put in a special account at the National Treasury and will not be touched before a return to civilian government.

The presidential election is to take place January 3, with a run-off planned for January 14th, if necessary. Local and legislative elections are also planned during that time.