Nigeria's Buhari admits to plagiarizing line from Obama speech

September 16, 2016 5:59 PM EDT

Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari listens as British Prime Minister Cameron opens the international anti-corruption summit on May 12, 2016 in London, England. REUTERS/Dan Kitwood/Pool

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ABUJA (Reuters) - Nigeria's President Muhammadu Buhari plagiarized quotes from U.S. President Barack Obama in a speech promising change in the West African country, his office said on Friday.

Last week, Buhari gave a speech to launch a campaign titled "Change begins with me," part of his credo to end graft in Africa's biggest economy which is gripped by mismanagement and poverty despite sitting on vast energy reserves.

But one paragraph in the speech urging Nigerians not to fall back "on the same partisanship, pettiness and immaturity that have poisoned our country so long" was copied from Obama's victory speech after his election in November 2008.

"It was observed that the similarities between a paragraph in President Obama's 2008 victory speech and what President Buhari read in paragraph nine of the 16-paragraph address... are too close to be passed as coincidence," Buhari's office said in a statement.

"President Buhari urges Nigerians to look beyond this incident and focus on the message of change which the country needs in order to restore our cherished value systems," the office said after a Twitter user joked about the incident.

"Those responsible" would be punished, the office said, adding that a deputy director in the presidency had admitted the mistake.

(Reporting by Felix Onuah, Camillus Eboh and Ulf Laessing; Editing by Cynthia Osterman)

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