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Last Updated: Friday, 23 January, 2004, 11:26 GMT
Nigeria bribery trial postponed
Poster for Nigerian ID card
The charges relate to an identity card business contract
The trial of three former Nigerian ministers on corruption charges has been postponed until next month.

The ministers and two officials are alleged to have accepted bribes totalling more than $2m over a contract to produce national identity cards.

Correspondents say the case is being seen as a test of the Nigerian Government's pledge to stamp out corruption in the country.

Nigeria is regularly named as one of the world most corrupt countries.

The men charged include former Internal Affairs Ministers Sunday Afolabi and Mahammed Shatta and former Labour Minister Hussain Akwanga.

All five suspects served in the administration of President Olusegun Obasanjo during his first term in office.

They all appeared in court alongside an agent from the French firm, Sagem, but the judge delayed the trial until 25 February, because he is involved in an electoral tribunal probing allegations of ballot-rigging.

Corruption 'challenge'

Sagem, a technology firm based in Paris, was awarded the $214m contract to produce national identity cards for Nigeria's adult population in 2001.

However, after a year, only a handful of people had actually received their cards.

After his re-election in 2003 President Obasanjo described the fight against corruption as one of the biggest challenges facing Nigeria.

Nigerian Information Minister Chukwuemeka Chikelu told the Associated Press news agency that the case "demonstrates the resolve of the government that there is no hiding place for corruption in Nigeria".

The Sagem charges are the highest-profile case yet brought by the Independent Corrupt Practices Commission (ICPC), set up by the Nigerian president three years ago.

It has yet to secure the conviction of a senior Nigerian official.

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