ABUJA, June 5 (Reuters) – Nigerian authorities took a powerful former governor of a state in the oil-producing Niger Delta into protective custody on Tuesday, pending charges of fraud and money laundering.
Timipre Sylva, the former state governor of Bayelsa and a rival of President Goodluck Jonathan, is accused of using fraudulent salary increase schemes, money laundering and setting up overdraft facilities to misappropriate funds while he was in office. He was removed earlier this year.
Rivalry between Sylva and Jonathan in the oil-rich Delta region has raised fears of a resurgence of the militant activity that halved oil production there in the last decade, although apart from a few pipeline attacks that nobody can link directly to it, such fears have not yet been realised.
The money he is alleged to have misappropriated comes to tens of millions of dollars.
“The case is hereby adjourned to Thursday, 7th June, for ruling on the bail application and the accused will be remanded in the custody of EFCC (Economic and Financial Crimes Commission) pending the ruling on his bail application,” Justice Adam Bello said in court.
Nigeria’s 36 state governors are among the most powerful politicians in Africa’s most populous nation, often controlling budgets bigger than many African countries.
Before he was charged Sylva was embroiled in a dispute with Jonathan, the president, over the governorship in Bayelsa, the home state of the two former allies who fell out.
The ruling People’s Democratic Party (PDP) had banned Sylva from running in its primary last November and thousands of soldiers were then deployed to Bayelsa to prevent any unrest.