ABUJA, Nigeria -- With a horde of American businessmen and journalists here for President Clinton's weekend visit, U.S. diplomats have issued an odd security warning: Don't use your credit cards.
In Nigeria, a country with a rich tradition of scams and swindles, it's widely assumed that credit card numbers will be passed on to thieves and fraudulent charges may begin appearing long after the visitor has returned home.
From hotel clerks attempting to pad their meager salaries to military dictators accused of plundering billions of dollars in oil wealth, corruption has impoverished this potentially prosperous land for decades.
President Olusegun Obasanjo declared war on corruption after his election last year and his government is trying to track the vast sums of state oil money that vanished into foreign bank accounts during the military dictatorship of Gen. Sani Abacha, who died in 1998.
But restoring Nigeria's badly tarnished reputation and retrieving the cash is a monumental task.
International investors shy away from the country, having heard too many tales of massive fraud. Nigerian involvement in international drug smuggling, money laundering and embezzlement schemes has made it difficult for Nigerians to obtain visas worldwide.
And critics say Obasanjo's anti-corruption drive has not been broad based, focusing mainly on people linked to his former rival, Abacha.
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