Nigeria leader ‘using graft agency to intimidate opponents’ (AFP)

Politicians from northern Nigeria on Friday accused President Goodluck Jonathan of ordering corruption investigations against those opposed to his candidacy in upcoming elections. The country’s anti-graft agency strongly disputed the accusation, which comes amid divisions in Jonathan’s ruling Peoples Democratic Party over whether he should represent it in elections expected in January. Jonathan has not announced his candidacy, but is widely expected to run. His team is believed to be working intensely behind the scenes to line up support, particularly from the country’s north. An organisation of northern politicians issued a statement saying it “urges President Goodluck Jonathan … to desist from use of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) to intimidate and harass governors and political leaders.” It alleged that the politicians being targeted were those “opposed to his ill-advised attempt to subvert the agreed zoning formula by seizing the Peoples Democratic Party ticket in next year?s general elections.” Zoning refers to the party’s unwritten policy of rotating its presidential candidates between the mainly Muslim north and predominately Christian south every two terms. Jonathan, a southerner, took over in May following the death of president Umaru Yar’Adua, who was from the north. Some within the party argue that Jonathan should be abandoned in favour of a northerner since Yar’Adua did not even finish his first term. The statement was issued by the Northern Political Leaders Forum, a group of prominent politicians from the region. The EFCC anti-graft agency called the claims “blackmail” and said it had an obligation to investigate any legitimate corruption allegations. “The EFCC is not under any pressure from the presidency or any other quarters to do anyone?s bidding on any issue,” it said in a statement. Investigations are ongoing over “multi-billion naira fraud allegations” in a number of states, including a couple in the north, it said.