A leading opposition politician and critic of Nigeria’s President Muhammadu Buhari has appeared in court on corruption charges, less than a week after he stepped down as state governor.
Peter Ayodele Fayose pleaded not guilty to 11 counts of criminal breach of trust and theft totaling nearly $18 million (15.5 million euros).
The Federal High Court in Lagos was told that Fayose, 57, and his company, Spotless Limited, took the cash to fund his 2014 campaign to become governor of the southwestern state of Ekiti.
The case was adjourned until Wednesday and Fayose was remanded into the custody of Nigeria’s main anti-corruption agency, the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC).
Fayose is one of the most prominent members of Nigeria’s main opposition People’s Democratic Party (PDP) and has tried to secure the ticket to run against Buhari at elections next year.
He stepped down as governor on October 16 after a controversial election for his successor that was mired in claims of vote-buying by the PDP and the ruling All Progressives Congress.
As governor, he had immunity from prosecution.
He has been held and questioned since last Tuesday, when he voluntarily turned up at the EFCC’s offices in Abuja with a crowd of supporters, wearing a T-shirt saying: “EFCC I’m here.”
The latest prosecution is part of Buhari’s pledge to root out corruption in Nigerian politics, which has led to PDP claims of a witch-hunt as most of those charged are its members.
Before the 2015 election, Fayose claimed Buhari was terminally ill with prostate cancer, was too old to be president and would die in office.
He more recently called for the 75-year-old head of state to resign and criticized his decision to be treated abroad for an undisclosed illness that kept him out of Nigeria for months.