[JURIST] Nigerian Vice-President Atiku Abubakar [official profile; official website] was charged Tuesday with more than a dozen counts of corruption. The charges filed before the Code of Conduct Tribunal, a special corruption court that has the power to strip elected officials of immunity, were related to the alleged diversion of $125 million dollars of public money to private interests, as well as allegations of receiving more than $4.6 million dollars in bribes. Supposedly some $6 million dollars were diverted from a special petroleum fund to iGate [corporate website], a Louisville, Kentucky-based communications company, which tried to do business in Nigeria in 2004. US Rep. William Jefferson (D-LA) [JURIST news archive] has been under investigation since March 2005 for allegedly taking bribes from that same company in return for using his position to help them.
While Abubakar has brushed off [Ajuba Daily Trust report] the charges as illegal, and is attempting to reject them on jurisdictional grounds, the tribunal has been effective before. In December, the Nigerian tribunal charged [JURIST report] Abubakars ally, Diepreye Alamieyeseigha, then governor of the oil-rich Bayelsa state [backgrounder], with corruption stemming from failure to declare properties and bank accounts. Alamieyeseigha has since been impeached.
Corruption has lately become a major political issue in Nigeria, with allegations [BBC report] being made both from and about senior political leaders. In 2004 Global Integrity, a DC based non-profit tracking governance and corruption trends, issued a report [text] ranking Nigeria 14th out of 25 countries, or "weak" on its Public Integrity Index. Nigeria's Economic and Financial Crimes Commission recently reported that 31 of 36 Nigerian state governors are currently under investigation for alleged corrupt practices [VOA report]. AP has more.