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Nigeria releases ex-minister implicated in arms fraud

Ex-defense minister allegedly misappropriated $15.3M of the $2.1B funds meant to purchase weapons for fighting Boko Haram

Nigeria releases ex-minister implicated in arms fraud

By Rafiu Ajakaye

SOKOTO, Nigeria

Nigeria’s former Defense Minister Musiliu Obanikoro, who was being held for his role in the alleged misappropriation of $2.1 billion funds meant for military hardware, has been released from detention, an official said Friday.

“Obanikoro was released this afternoon after meeting some conditions set out in the administrative bail granted him over a week ago,” a top source within the country's Economic and Financial Crimes Commission told Anadolu Agency.

He did not know if Obanikoro would be charged or not but he claimed the former minister had returned some money to the agency.

EFCC spokesman Wilson Uwujaren confirmed Obanikoro’s release.

“Yes, he has been released. He is on bail,” Uwujaren told Anadolu Agency. He declined to say whether Obanikoro would be charged in court.

Obanikoro had been taken into custody two weeks back after he arrived in Nigeria from the U.S.

He is alleged to have misappropriated $15.3 million of the $2.1 billion funds meant for the purchase of military weapons to fight against Boko Haram.

He was the defense minister under the administration of former President Goodluck Jonathan, who incumbent President Muhammadu Buhari insisted had misappropriated funds budgeted to fight the insurgency in the country's northeast. Failure of purchase the arms had been blamed for Nigerian troops deserting from war fronts.

Obanikoro had denied any wrongdoing but officials alleged he was found to have diverted $15.3 million of the arms fund to execute a political campaign of then ruling Peoples Democratic Party (PDP).

EFCC investigators also claimed to have traced part of the funds to accounts operated by some children of the former minister, a claim he rejected. The accounts have been frozen pending the probe.

Several top officials, including former security adviser to Jonathan, military chiefs and prominent politicians, were being tried in connection with the alleged embezzlement case.

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