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Nigeria official says innocent in $40 mln graft case

Posted by By Nick Tattersall on 2008/10/09 | Views: 1366 |

Nigeria official says innocent in $40 mln graft case


A senior official from Nigeria's oil-producing Niger Delta pleaded not guilty on Thursday to embezzling $40 million in public funds, in a corruption case being closely watched by militants in the restive region.

A senior official from Nigeria's oil-producing Niger Delta pleaded not guilty on Thursday to embezzling $40 million in public funds, in a corruption case being closely watched by militants in the restive region.

Ezebunwo Nyeson Wike, chief of staff to the governor of Rivers state, faces seven counts of criminal breach of trust and conversion of public funds totalling 4.67 billion naira ($40 million) between 2007 and June 2008, the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) which brought the case said.

"He pleaded not guilty to all the charges," EFCC spokesman Femi Babafemi said.

Wike was ordered to be held in EFCC custody until he met bail conditions including 50 million naira and the surrender of his international passports, the anti-corruption police said. The case was adjourned to Oct. 24.

The Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta (MEND), the main militant group in Nigeria's oil heartland, threatened on Wednesday to create a "state of anarchy" unless those accused in the case were properly dealt with.

The EFCC has also been questioning the secretary of the state government and is seeking two other senior officials from Rivers -- one of three main oil-producing states in the Niger Delta -- in connection with the charges.

The oil-producing states receive a significant proportion of Nigeria's federal oil revenues, making the state governors and their entourages extremely powerful people. The annual budget of Rivers alone is well over $1 billion.

The militant groups, whose camps are deep in the delta's creeks, say they are fighting for greater development for a region whose villages have been polluted by five decades of oil extraction while seeing next to none of the revenues.

They have cut Nigeria's oil output by around a fifth over the past two years by blowing up pipelines and attacking facilities. The West African country is currently exporting around 1.9 million barrels per day, oil traders say.

Security experts and rights groups say the violence is really about control of a lucrative trade in stolen oil, a multi-million dollar business from which criminal gangs, corrupt local officials and members of the military all take a slice.

MEND launched a six-day campaign of attacks on platforms, pipelines and oil and gas plants in Rivers last month after what it said were unprovoked strikes by the military.

The unrest forced Royal Dutch Shell , the company worst hit, to warn it may not meet all of its obligations on oil shipments from the world's eighth biggest exporter.

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Joel Efiong(Calabar, Nigeria)says...

This is a great piece. The examination bodies should hire you as ICT consultant.

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Sunday Mbe(Kaduna, Kaduna, Nigeria)says...

ULIMASI means' GOD,THANK YOU' not THANK GOD.

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Sunday Mbe(Kaduna, Kaduna, Nigeria)says...

The name ULIMASI is from the UTUGWANG tribe in OBUDU local government area of CROSS RIVER STATE in Nigeria.

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Okfold(Sobe, Edo, Nigeria)says...

I want the meaning of female owan name Ekeke (Edo state)

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Toluwalase Samuel Olufemi(Ijebu, Ogun, Nigeria)says...

Authority belongs to God, once He decrees it is final and binding