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Tuesday, August 3, 1999 Published at 13:35 GMT 14:35 UK


World: Africa

Nigeria's disgraced speaker fined $20

The speaker's fate was a test for the newly democratic Nigeria

The former speaker of Nigeria's House of Representatives has been fined the equivalent of about $20 after pleading guilty to lying about his age in election papers.


BBC's Barnaby Phillips: The leniency of the sentence will disappoint many
A humiliated Salisu Buhari broke down in tears last week when he resigned, after press allegations that he falsified his age and educational qualifications before Nigeria's elections in February.

The scandal threw Nigeria's new democracy into turmoil only weeks after the end of military rule.

He admitted he was only 29, not 36 as he had claimed, and was therefore too young to serve in parliament.

He also admitted his claim to have an academic degree from the University of Toronto was false.

Leniency

The judge told the court in Abuja he had taken account of calls for leniency when deciding the sentence of just 2,000 naira: 1,000 naira for false declaration and 1,000 for forgery.

"Considering the pleas for mitigation, I'll be constrained to temper justice with mercy," magistrate Mohammed Kolo said.

Court officials said the former speaker smiled after hearing the sentence and was congratulated by friends.

Correspondents say both crimes could have carried a three-year jail sentence.

The 360-member lower house voted to forgive Mr Buhari but President Olusegun Obasanjo's government went ahead with a prosecution.

Apology

Mr Buhari told assembly members when he resigned that he was sorry for the distress he had caused the nation.


[ image: President Obasanjo has promised to fight corruption in public life]
President Obasanjo has promised to fight corruption in public life
"I was misled in error by zeal to serve the nation," Mr Buhari said.

"I hope the nation will forgive me and give me the opportunity to serve again."

The speaker of the house is a key post in Nigeria's fledgling democracy, and fourth in the country's constitutional hierarchy after President Obasanjo, the vice-president and the speaker of the senate.

The convening of an elected National Assembly on 3 June ended more than 15 years in which Nigeria's laws were made by military decree.



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