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NIGERIA: Obasanjo says farming, not corruption, makes him rich

Posted by AP/IRIN on 2004/11/26 | Views: 1315 |

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NIGERIA: Obasanjo says farming, not corruption, makes him rich

Nigerian President Olusegun Obasanjo earns more than a quarter of a million dollars every month from his large farm, a senior aide said on Thursday.

ABUJA, 25 Nov 2004 (IRIN) - Nigerian President Olusegun Obasanjo earns more than a quarter of a million dollars every month from his large farm, a senior aide said on Thursday.

The aide volunteered the information as Obasanjo, the leader of one of the world's most corrupt countries, sought to dismiss fears that he was enriching himself in office.

Obasanjo, a former army general, owns hundreds of hectares of land at Otta in Ogun State in south-western Nigeria, about 40 km from the country's commercial capital Lagos.

Besides rearing chickens, pigs and ostriches, Obasanjo frequently uses the farm for diplomatic meetings. Earlier this month, he held a crisis summit there with five other African heads of state to discuss the latest upsurge in violence in Cote d'Ivoire.

Femi Fani-Kayode, a special assistant to the president, told IRIN that "some unknown people" were circulating allegations that Obasanjo was diverting state funds to his farm.

"The President makes 30 million naira (US $227,000) every month on the average from his farm," the aide said by telephone.
"When people say he is using state funds on the farm, it may help to show the kind of money he already makes from it."

He declined to discuss Obasanjo's income from other assets.

Corruption has long been a bugbear in Africa's most populous nation. It is Africa's top oil producer, and ranks seventh in world terms, but more than 80 percent of Nigeria's 126 million people live on less than a dollar a day.

Obasanjo came to power through the ballot box in 1999, ending a decade and a half of military rule, and immediately declared war on corruption, which he branded a cancer,

But under his leadership Nigeria has consistently ranked among the three most corrupt countries in the world in a survey carried out each year by the Berlin-based watchdog, Transparency International.

It ranked Nigeria 132nd out of the 133 countries surveyed in this year's Corruption Perceptions Index.

Obasanjo has set up a special anti-graft body to prosecute public officials fingered on corruption charges, but critics point out that no top official has yet been convicted on corruption charges, despite signs that the problem is worsening.

One case that made local headlines recently was brought against Plateau State governor Joshua Dariye. He was suspended for six months earlier this year following a series of sectarian clashes in Plateau State between Muslims and Christians, which persuaded Obasanjo to declare a state of emergency there.

Nigeria's Justice Minister Akinlolu Olujinmi last week wrote to the state legislature, saying Dariye was currently under investigation for money laundering in Britain and Nigeria.

The minister detailed more than one million pounds (US $1.9 million), suspected to have been diverted from public funds, and traced to bank accounts in Britain run by the governor.

Dariye's supporters say he is being singled out by Obasanjo to settle secret political scores and to draw attention away from the president's lack of progress in the nationwide corruption fight.

The justice minister's letter arrived the day before the end of a six-month state of emergency, which Obasanjo had declared in the wake of religious fighting that killed hundreds, but it stopped short of asking legislators to remove Dariye from office as they are empowered to do under the constitution.

Plateau's state legislators replied in a letter to the government on Wednesday, asking the president to avoid "selective punishment" in its anti-graft war and demanding that all public officers, including the president, publish details of their assets.

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