Page last updated at 14:55 GMT, Friday, 19 December 2008

Nigeria graft fine 'no deterrent'

Lucky Igbinedion (Photo: Delta State website:
Lucky Igbinedion was accused of stealing through three front companies

Former Nigerian governor Lucky Igbinedion has been fined $25,000 (16,700) for embezzling $21m (14m).

He said he chose to pay the fine instead of spending six months in jail.

Mr Igbinedion, who was governor of Edo State from 1999 until May 2007, also has to repay $3.5m (2.3m) and surrender three of his properties.

The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) has appealed against the decision, saying such fines would not work as "a deterrent for others".

When President Umaru Yar'Adua came to power about 18 months ago, he pledged "zero tolerance" from his government to corruption.

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

In May, 12 top investigators at the EFCC were replaced following the removal of the former chairman, Nuhu Ribadu.

Mr Ribadu was moved from his post last year a few weeks after the EFCC arrested a wealthy former governor from Nigeria's oil-producing region, James Ibori, who was instrumental in getting the current president elected.

Mr Igbinedion also played a key role in Mr Yar'Adua's election.

Critics of Mr Ribadu say his management of the EFCC's prosecutions were selective, and that the agency was being used by former President Olusegun Obasanjo to punish his enemies.

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