- The Washington Times - Wednesday, March 23, 2005

ABUJA, Nigeria (Agence France-Presse) — The president of the Nigerian Senate accepted a large bribe from the education minister, who sought to increase his department’s budget, and will be investigated by the state anti-graft agency, President Olusegun Obasanjo announced on television Tuesday.

Mr. Obasanjo told Nigerians that officials had recovered 55 million naira ($417,000) from Senate President Adolphus Wabara and six senior lawmakers — the amount that Education Minister Fabian Osuji is said to have paid while seeking a budget increase.

“Fellow Nigerians, it is a disheartening event that the No. 3 man in the government hierarchy in the country is involved in this sordid matter,” Mr. Obasanjo said, in the first direct accusation to be leveled at the Senate leader since the scandal broke last weekend.

Mr. Wabara is likely to become the third Nigerian Senate president to be impeached for corruption since the return of civilian rule in 1999.

Mr. Obasanjo said that Mr. Osuji had been fired and that his case would be handed over to the Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offenses Commission, which investigates and prosecutes public servants accused of corruption.

The evidence against Mr. Wabara, five of his fellow senators and a member of the lower house will be sent to the commission, and the deputy Senate president and the ruling People’s Democratic Party will be invited to take action against him, the Nigerian president told the television audience.

And in a warning to other ministers, many of them rumored to have paid similar bribes to protect their budgets from Mr. Obasanjo’s efforts to trim public spending, he announced that investigations would continue into other departments and members of the two houses of parliament.

“It is the responsibility of the National Assembly to cleanse itself, to show to Nigerians that it deserves their respect, to rebuild public confidence and to flush out those members who continue to … degrade its integrity and stature,” he said.

“Because this has never been part of the assembly’s agenda, past leaders of the Senate and the House got away with near murder and are now living in obscene opulence,” he said.

Under Nigeria’s 1999 constitution, Mr. Wabara’s fellow senators can remove him from office by a two-thirds majority vote.

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