Nigeria presidential challenger mulls ‘graft amnesty’

LAGOS (AFP) – The main challenger to Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari in next month’s election has promised to consider an amnesty for graft suspects who voluntarily return stolen funds to the treasury.

With just over two weeks until the February 16 polls, former Vice President Atiku Abubakar made the pledge during a television appearance late Wednesday, saying such a programme could bring badly-needed funds into the state coffers.

“Why not? It worked for Turkey. Turkey gave an amnesty and all the money abroad came back,” said the 72-year-old from the main opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP).

“Look at Turkey today. It’s like any other European countries in terms of development. They drew a line. Why not – we can consider it,” said Abubakar who is a wealthy businessman and former customs officer.

Millions of dollars in state funds and assets are stolen every year in Nigeria, Africa’s leading crude producer and exporter.

Atiku Abubakar, who is running against Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari in next month’s elections, is a wealthy businessman and former customs officer. – AFP

Abubakar said that prosecuting such people would not necessarily ensure the best outcome, but that an amnesty could enable the state to recover the funds for use in development.

Buhari, who came to power in 2015 on a pledge to end corruption, is seeking a second term in office but faces a formidable challenge from Abubakar who served as vice president from 1999 to 2007.

Two years ago, a whistleblower scheme was launched that promises up to five per cent commission to those who volunteer information leading to the recovery of stolen assets.