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Last Updated: Wednesday, 8 October, 2003, 09:59 GMT 10:59 UK
Nigerian minister tells of bribe
National Assembly building
The bribe was to have been distributed among senators
A Nigerian minister has told a corruption investigation that two senators asked him to pay $414,000 for them to confirm his appointment.

Nasir el-Rufai says that when he said he did not have the money, he was told to recoup his "investment" from land sales.

The two men he accused, leading figures in the ruling People's Democratic Party, have denied the claims.

Nigeria was on Tuesday named as the world's second most corrupt country.

The BBC's Anna Borzello in Abuja says that a large and excited crowd turned up to hear Mr el-Rufai's testimony at a senate corruption inquiry.

I did not demand any money from el-Rufai. He is a pathological liar
Ibrahim Mantu
Deputy senate president
"I explained that I did not believe in paying for any job, which in any case was likely to be a difficult and a thankless one," said the former head of Nigeria's privatisation agency.

'Army of senators'

Mr el-Rufai was recently confirmed as Minister of the Federal Capital Territory, giving him control of the new purpose-built capital, Abuja, which is experiencing a property boom.

He said that deputy majority leader Jonathan Zwingina told him that selling a single plot of land would enable him to make back the bribe money.

Abuja building site
El-Rufai says he was told to profit from Abuja's construction boom

Mr el-Rufai said that Mr Zwingina and deputy senate president Ibrahim Mantu had requested the money to secure the support of "an army of senators" to confirm his appointment.

Mr Zwingina said he was "shocked and horrified" by the accusations.

"I saw in that statement things that are completely fabricated, malicious and intended to damage reputations... There is no iota of truth whatsoever, no grain of truth in the allegation," he told the committee.

"I did not demand any money from el-Rufai. He is a pathological liar," Mr Mantu said.

Our correspondent says this is the first time anyone can remember that a senior government official has made a corruption allegation against his peers and then offered it up for public scrutiny.

The government has repeatedly said it will take steps against corruption and has set up numerous committees to deal with the problem.

But so far there has been little visible impact, our correspondent says.

Nigerian MPs curb sleaze body
08 May 03  |  Africa
Country profile: Nigeria
23 Apr 03  |  Country profiles

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