Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 21 October 2019

Nigeria suspends graft recovery boss over 'financial impropriety'

Nigeria's president has made the fight against corruption a top priority for his government

Nigeria's president Muhammadu Buhari has promised action against corruption. Reuters
Nigeria's president Muhammadu Buhari has promised action against corruption. Reuters

Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari has suspended the head of a panel formed to recover stolen state assets after he was accused of financial misconduct and falsifying his education credentials.

Okoi Obono-Obla was suspended with immediate effect pending investigations by the country's Independent Corrupt Practices Commission, the presidency tweeted late on Wednesday.

A letter addressed to Mr Obono-Obla from the government said the cases involved "alleged falsification of records and financial impropriety".

Accusations include that he siphoned off recovered funds for his personal use and falsified his university entrance certificate.

Mr Obono-Obla has denied the allegations, insisting he was being made a target by powerful interests from whom he had recovered millions of dollars in cash and assets, at home and abroad.

The Justice Ministry on Thursday said that Mr Buhari had directed the commission to "conclude its investigations and proceed to prosecute" Mr Obono-Obla.

The case is considered to be a test for Mr Buhari's anti-corruption campaign at the start of his second term in office.

The former military ruler, 76, was re-elected in February and has made the fight against corruption a major part of his administration.

But during his first term he faced accusations that he used the clampdown to pursue critics and political opponents.

Nigeria faces a huge challenge in reclaiming funds lost to corruption in the country.

When Mr Buhari came to power in 2015, he spoke of "mind-boggling" theft by the previous government, but looting of funds has been going on for decades.

Billions of dollars were estimated to have been stolen by late dictator Sani Abacha during his rule from 1993 and 1998.

Channel Island Jersey in June said it had seized more than $267 million (Dh981m) taken by Abacha from Nigerian coffers.

Updated: August 16, 2019 01:05 AM

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