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Nigeria widens oil graft probes

October 6, 2015

Nigeria has arrested the head of a major local oil firm only a day after the oil giant's former petroleum minister was arrested in the UK on corruption charges. The government has said it will clamp down on graft.

Shell Bonny Island Öl Umweltverschmutzung Niger River Delta in Nigeria
Image: Getty Images

Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari on Tuesday put forward the names of a cabinet he has tasked to fight graft, as authorities arrested the chairman of a local oil firm a day after the UK said the country's former oil minister had been arrested on corruption charges.

The arrests come following a pledge by Buhari to "clean up" corruption linked to oil in Africa's largest economy, after he came to power earlier this year in the country's first democratic change of government.

Nigeria's Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) arrested Atlantic Energy chairman Olajide Omokore on corruption and money laundering charges, and on Monday the UK arrested Diezani Alison-Madueke, the former oil minister on similar charges.

Nigeria has accused Alison-Maduke of siphoning off billions of dollars in oil revenue during her five year tenure as petroleum minister.

Meanwhile, Nigeria has requested assistance from Switzerland related to Nigeria tycoon Kolawole Aluko and energy firms tied to him. On Tuesday, Britain and Switzerland said they would cooperate with Nigeria in investigations into public funds stolen and illegally transferred during past governments, according to a statement from the president's office.

Buhari, a former military dictator, has ordered an audit of state institutions including the petroleum ministry and state oil company, Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC).

In one of his first acts as president he got rid of the leadership the state oil industry.

Buhari has claimed as much as $150 billion (130 billion euros) has been siphoned off from state revenues over the past decade, in a country that grapples with widespread poverty and income inequality.

Buhari appoints cabinet

After months of delay, Buhari, who has said he will also act as the country's petroleum minister, put forward the names of a 20-person cabinet on Tuesday.

Among the candidates to be approved by the senate is Harvard-educated Emmanuel Ibe Kachikwu, a former Exxon-Mobil manager in Africa.

In August he was appointed head of the NNPC and is expected to run the day-to-day management of the petroleum ministry under the leadership of Buhari.

cw/jr (AP, AFP, dpa, Reuters)

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