AFRICA, Investigative Report
Nigeria: How Former Governors Loot Billions, Hide In APC To Avoid Prosecution
There are clear indications that the fight against corruption in Nigeria by President Muhammadu Buhari’s administration has fizzled.
Caracal Reports’ findings on some of the Nigerian corruption cases showed the government has hibernated from prosecuting some of the former government officials accused of corruption, especially those governors who decamped to the ruling party, APC.
The former governors, who have embezzled more than N170bn during their terms in office, now seek solace in the ruling party, APC, to avoid prosecution.
It was gathered that the country’s allegedly corrupt politicians, who the masses believed would be tamed by Buhari’s government, later found a means of escaping prosecution by joining the ruling party. Some of the big names include:
Orji Uzor Kalu
Orji Uzor Kalu, who is a former governor of Abia state, was arraigned by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission alongside one of his companies, Slok Nigeria Limited, suspected to have laundered the sum of N3.2bn.
According to findings, Kalu allegedly diverted about N3.2bn from Abia’s treasury while he was governor of the state.
He allegedly diverted the funds in tranches of N200million, N50million, N200million, N300.8million, N545million, N429million, N288.4million, N190million, N157million, N152.8million, N100million, N84million, and N50milliob between August 13, 2003, and January 12, 2005.
Legal experts said the offense was contrary to Section 17 (c) of the Money Laundering (Prohibition) Act 2003 and punishable under Section 16 of the same Act.
EFCC had taken the former governor to court several times in a bid to prosecute him.
But recently, the former governor crossed from his party to the ruling party, APC, to escape being prosecuted.
Impeccable sources in APC confirmed to our correspondent that Kalu had negotiated his case for not contesting any position while he is a member of the party, but to remain and work for the party’s success in the country’s South East region.
Former Governor of Adamawa State, Ahmadu Fintiri allegedly laundered the sum of N2.9billion while in government. Though he appeared in Federal High Court in Maitama, Abuja regarding the case, it has been one that has been swept under the carpet by the administration. Nothing is heard about it since.
Murtala Nyako, the former governor of Adamawa State; his son, Senator Abdul-Aziz Nyako; and Abubakar Aliyu and Zulkifikk Abba were on trial before Justice Okon Abang of a Federal High Court in Abuja.
They were facing a 37-count charge including criminal conspiracy, stealing, abuse of office, and money laundering to the tune of N29bn.
Nyako and his co-defendants were alleged to have used five companies – Blue Opal Nigeria Limited, Serore Farms & Extension Limited, Pagoda Fortunes Limited, Towers Assets Management Limited, and Crust Energy Limited to commit the fraud.
The former governor of Taraba State, Jolly Nyame, also allegedly was involved in criminal misappropriation of N1.64bn in state funds. He later defected to APC, and since then the status of his case has become a mirage to the masses that had been waiting for his prosecution.
The immediate past governor of Ekiti state, who is now the Minister of Solid Minerals, Dr. Kayode Fayemi was alleged by the current state assembly of looting the state treasury to the tune of N40bn.
In a petition made available to Caracal Reports, the former governor was alleged to have committed various misappropriations that are believed to have impoverished the state.
Despite several allegations and petitions were written to the country’s anti-graft agency, nothing has been done to investigate the case of the former governor, who is now a minister under President Buhari.
Findings revealed the former governor is being shielded because he holds a vital role among the party’s inner caucus that works for the president on special assignment.
Because of his communication prowess, Fayemi also was revealed to have written most of Buhari’s scripts that he delivered on many occasions.
The immediate past governor of Rivers state, Rotimi Amaechi is another former governor who is now serving in Buhari’s cabinet. Under his watch as Governor, he is alleged to have fraudulently generated more than N70billion from secret sales of state-owned assets.
Despite several outcries by people of the state, the incumbent governor of Rivers state, and stakeholders in the country, Amaechi’s case are being neglected under the Buhari administration, which earlier had made fighting corruption its priority. Whitepaper
Senator Musiliu Obanikoro, former Minister of State for Defence, was involved in laundering $2.1 billion from an arms sale scandal in Nigeria. The money was meant for procuring arms for combating the country’s Boko Haram insurgency.
In the anti-graft team’s investigation, N4.7bn was traced to Obanikoro’s account, but he later refunds N134m to the government.
He still was expected to be grilled by the country’s anti-graft agency when he moved to the ruling party, APC, to save his head.
A source in the party who preferred anonymity said, “Obanikoro, having realized he has no option to save his head from the mess, decided to join APC. So, he has escaped the probe on the remaining money. Even if they parade him for probe again, he will not be prosecuted as such because he has aligned with us already.”
Mr. Bukola Saraki, a former Kwara state governor who is now the Senate president of Nigeria, has several corruption cases for which to answer.
Among these cases is the one involving how a large chunk of the N19bn London-Paris Club loan refund allegedly was diverted under the guise of paying consultants.
In the case, the anti-corruption agency in its preliminary findings established that a considerable chunk of the cash allegedly was diverted by the Senate president and his aides using both banks and companies to perpetuate the fraud. The discovery followed an inquiry launched by the Presidency into the disbursement of the cash refund, which was meant to enable states to clear the backlog of staff salaries and pensions.
However, Saraki’s many sins seem to have been forgiven by Buhari’s government at the expense of millions of Nigerians who already are being impoverished.
British government faults Buhari’s corruption fight
An anonymous source at Justice for All, a programme funded by the United Kingdom’s Department For International Development, told our correspondent the British government was not pleased with the manner in which the corruption fight is being handled in Nigeria.
The corruption charges against the former governors, according to some DFID documents seen by our correspondent, have lingered for periods ranging from 1999 to date.
The source, who requested anonymity owing to the issue’s sensitivity, revealed these cases were among those unresolved high-profile corruption cases that the British government had complained about in some of its messages to the Presidency as being capable of adversely affecting President Muhammadu Buhari’s anti-corruption crusade.
The source said, “The home (British) government is not happy that the Buhari government is seeking international support for its anti-corruption campaigns. Whereas there are many corruption cases involving top Nigerian politicians, among them governors, and such cases have ridiculously lingered for periods of 15, 16, 17 years in the Nigerian courts.
“We were directed to make this complaint known to President Buhari, which we did, and recently we learned that he had led the Chief Justice of Nigeria to look into such cases.
“And reliable sources in the Judiciary also told us that the Chief Justice had asked for the case files of such high-profile corruption trials, and we got to know that cases involving 15 former governors were included.
The source also added that many of these cases even had been forgotten, “while new cases that would also be abandoned after some years, were being pursued by the anti-corruption agencies.”
He lamented that “public funds stolen, wasted and abused in Nigeria in the past 15 years were more than 60 percent of what the military had stolen in over 40 years.”
The source said the anti-corruption agencies established these cases against the ex-governors between 1999 and 2012, adding that some of the cases, which came up at Abuja high courts for mentioning in 2016, had curiously gone into limbo.
Meanwhile, J4A of the DFID also has revealed that about N2.3trillion recovered from corrupt politicians and others by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission is still locked up in the record of the anti-graft agency and has not been accessed.
“The looted funds were just locked up in EFCC accounts without any serious attempt to recover them.”
‘Buhari not truly fighting corruption.’
Reacting to the delay in high-profile corruption cases, Prof. Smart Otu of the Department of Political Science, Federal University, Ndufu-Alike, Ikwo, Ebonyi State, described the trend as “monumental scandals.”
He said, “Even the N195b pension funds allegedly embezzled by the former Chairman of Pension Fund, Alhaji Abdulrasheed Maina, is one of the unresolved cases, which has remained inconclusive as the man has fled the country after being smuggled in. Same thing applicable to the kerosene subsidy scam. No legal prosecution has been instituted since the National Assembly members concluded their investigations on it.
“No officials of the NNPC or the marketers have been sanctioned, thus emboldening them to continue to import kerosene and allocate to themselves and their associates, rather than selling the product at the subsidized price.”
Otu also cited the “$6b (£4bn) fuel subsidy scam involving two notable Nigerians. N123b fraud alleged against Stephen Oronsaye; Stella Oduah’s N255m alleged car purchase scandal; NNPC missing $20bn; $15m private jet arms scandal; and $1.1b proceeds paid to Malabu Oil company” as some of the festering corruption cases that had not been resolved by this administration.
Also speaking on the issue, Mr. Malachy Ugwumadu, the National President of the Committee for the Defence of Human Rights, urged the Buhari administration not to give up on the alleged corruption cases involving the ex-governors.
Ugwumadu lamented the long delay in concluding the trials of the former governors, saying that it was a test of the resolve of the Buhari administration to fight corruption to a standstill in the country.
Therefore, he stressed the government not only should prosecute the cases against the ex-governors accused of corruption, but it also should ensure that it secured a conviction where necessary.
Chief Ayo Adebanjo, a leader of the pan-Yoruba group Afenifere, while speaking on the development, said the president should resign from office.
According to Chief Adebanjo, “There is no doubt that all that was exposed to corruption fight in this country has rubbished the integrity of Buhari. This is a clear indication about the irregularities in his cabinet. How can you be head of state and all these are happening to you?
“To me, he has diminished a lot in integrity. That showed Buhari is not even in control of his government.”
Alhaji Tanko Yakassai, a former special adviser on National Assembly Matters to former president Alhaji Shehu Shagari, said the government had “a duty to tell Nigerians its position on this saga.”
Dr. Junaid Mohammed, a northern elder statesman and former member of the House of Representatives, who also harped on Maina’s case, said Buhari’s fight against corruption would determine his faith in 2019.
He said, “I hope when the time comes, I hope Nigerians will be making a rational decision whether to vote Buhari for 2019 or not. I sincerely hope they look at all the facts, look at several circumstances around him to decide.”
Senator Adolphus Wabara, a former Senate President, condemned the anti-corruption crusade of President Muhammadu Buhari, especially as defectors to APC are neglected in the fight against corruption. He said the level of corruption in Buhari’s administration is unbelievable.
Wabara said the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) was a better corruption fighter. He added that the government led by the PDP did not spare its members in the crusade. He said that when the party returns to power in 2019, it will continue fighting corruption as it did before 2015 when it lost power to the All Progressives Congress (APC).
“PDP is now re-branded. The future of PDP is very bright. PDP is now ready to be a formidable opposition. PDP will come back to power,” Wabara said.
He added, “First of all, we will continue from where we stopped. We will continue to fight corruption. When we were there, we were even fighting ourselves. Let me tell you; I have corruption cases pending in court by my political party.
“So, we were the one fighting corruption. The level of corruption now is unbelievable. So many of us from the same party were purging ourselves. With that, we were showing Nigerians that we were fighting corruption. We know how to govern, and Nigerians will agree with us.
“They said if you don’t marry two wives, you would not know who is better. Now Nigerians have tasted the new party and the PDP, and now they know which one is better.”