Associates of Nigerian election challenger charged with graft: Prosecutors

14 Aug 2019 / 23:58 H.

LAGOS: The lawyer and relative of defeated Nigerian presidential challenger Atiku Abubakar appeared in court on Wednesday on money laundering charges, anti-corruption prosecutors said.

Election runner-up Abubakar has launched a legal challenge against the result of the fiercely contested poll in February that saw him defeated by incumbent President Muhammadu Buhari for a second term in office.

Abubakar’s son-in-law, Abdullahi Babalele and legal adviser Uyi Giwa Osagie have been accused of handling $140,000 and $2 million respectively (€125,250 and €1.8 million) without going through a “financial institution”, a prosecutor for the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) told AFP.

At a high court in Lagos, “both were arraigned and pleaded not-guilty,“ Rotimi Oyedepo said.

The defendants were held in EFCC custody and would return to court on Thursday when the judge would decide whether to release them on bail.

Several people close to the defeated candidate have been targeted by the anti-graft agency since the vote, in what Abubakar’s supporters have described as a witch-hunt.

Osagie was first detained in February, days before the polls, after his house was raided in Lagos. He was released from custody several weeks later.

In March, weeks after the election, Babalele was also arrested by EFCC officials, who raided his properties in the nation’s capital, Abuja.

Last week, a spokesman for Abubakar’s campaign, Boladale Adekoya told AFP the charges were “partisan” and accused anti-corruption investigators of “acting on behalf of a higher authority.”

Buhari swept to power in 2015 on a pledge to fight the rampant graft in Nigeria — but critics have accused the former military ruler of using the crackdown to go after his opponents during his first term. — AFP

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