Former Cameroon minister arrested in Nigeria


Cameroon’s former water and energy minister was arrested in Nigeria and flown home a police source and local media said, amid a crackdown on high-level corruption.

Basile Atangana Kouna was removed from his ministerial position during President Paul Biya’s March 2 cabinet reshuffle. He had already been ordered not to leave the country.
“Atangana Kouna is in Cameroon. He was arrested in Nigeria and sent back to Cameroon. He arrived this evening,” a police source, who asked not to be named, told Reuters.

Vision 4, a private television channel considered allied to Biya, reported the former minister arrived at the international airport in Yaounde escorted by police officers.

Another channel, Canal 2 International, also reported his arrest in Nigeria and subsequent extradition.

Cameroon’s government spokesman was not immediately reachable for comment. Neither were officials in neighbouring Nigeria.

It was not clear what charges Atangana Kouna was facing, but there was speculation on Thursday he was arrested as part of an anti-corruption drive known as Operation Sparrowhawk.

Three men – a former Ministry of Public Works official, the head of a state company and the ex-rector of the University of Douala – were arrested as part of the operation earlier this week.

Cameroon’s oil wealth spawned a sprawling political patronage system fuelled by revenues from crude exports. Transparency International ranked it 153 out of 180 countries on its annual corruption perception index.

Biya has ruled virtually by decree since taking over from a retiring predecessor in 1982 and then winning an election with 99.98% of the vote a year later.

Now 85, Biya is expected to seek re-election in presidential polls later this year, but is currently facing some major challenges to his 35-year rule.

Cameroon’s oil-dependent economy has been crippled by low crude prices. Separatists are mounting a guerrilla campaign in the country’s two English-speaking provinces, demanding independence from the majority Francophone Central African nation.