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Nigeria leader wants no immunity

Umar Yar'Adua
The president has called for his own immunity to be scrapped

Nigerian President Umaru Yar'Adua has called for laws that protect top politicians from prosecution while in office to be scrapped.

He said it was time to remove the protection that the president and state governors have to strengthen the fight against corruption.

But critics said the proposal only paid "lip service" to ending corruption.

Concerns are growing that efforts to battle corruption in one of Africa's most corrupt countries are foundering.

Correspondents say removing immunity would require a change to the constitution, which would be a lengthy process.

The last time that was tried, under former President Olusegun Obasanjo, it was thrown out because he sought to extend his term as president.

Mr Yar'Adua was speaking at the launch of a new campaign to encourage Nigerians to report corrupt practices.

"This provision for immunity against prosecution for serving officers should be expunged from the constitution," he said.

"Nobody in Nigeria deserves the right to be protected by law when looting public funds."

He referred to a case in the US where the serving governor of Illinois has been arrested and charged for trying to sell US President-elect Barack Obama's Senate seat.

Alarm

But the governor of Edo State, former union leader Adams Oshiohmole, said the country's anti-corruption agencies were not doing enough to prosecute corrupt politicians who were no longer protected by the law, let alone serving governors.

"Just because he says this, doesn't mean anything will change, it's just paying lip service to the fight against corruption," he told the BBC.

It is widely felt that there are plenty of corrupt politicians who are not being investigated at all because of their connections to power.

Mr Oshiohmole, an opposition politician, recently became governor after a court overturned the election of the ruling party candidate in his state.

Recently, human rights organisations and anti-corruption campaigners have sounded the alarm over the state of the country's fight against graft, calling into question the efficacy of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC).

The EFCC has arrested 10 former governors since their terms of office ran out in May last year, but their trials have been stalled.

The head of the EFCC, Farida Waziri, blames the court system for being slow.

But the BBC has learned that the lead prosecutor who was overseeing the progress of the cases has been sidelined by the anti-graft agency and many of his cases have been given to newly appointed lawyers.

This follows the news of the replacement of 12 top investigators at the EFCC, and the removal of the former chairman, Nuhu Ribadu, in May.

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