In the 1970s, when Afrobeat maestro, Fela Anikulapo Kuti sang, “VIP: Vagabonds In Power”, many Nigerians though their country had seen the worst and that corruption had attained its height with the misdeeds of some of the nation’s power brokers. But more than three decades after Fela sang the song, it has become obvious that “vagabonds” are indeed in power in Nigeria.
The case of James Ibori who was sentenced to 13 years imprisonment by a London court recently further confirms the true meaning of “VIP” in Nigeria. Ibori had been absolved of more than 170 counts of corruption by Nigerian courts; only for him to become a fugitive when INTERPOL came knocking. It must however be noted that corruption did not just start in Nigeria.
Between 1976 and 1983, it was fashionable to be a contractor. Around that time, it was alleged that most of the contractors that were sympathetic to the National Party of Nigeria (NPN) which was the ruling party then got paid for jobs that were never executed. Members of the ruling party also benefited largely from the issuance of importation licenses as well as foreign exchange allowances. After the Shagari administration was sacked by General Buhari in December 1983 and a good number of political office holders were detained, a large chunk of Nigeria’s population felt with the treatment meted to politicians by the administration, anyone thinking of embezzling public funds would have a rethink.
The corruption in Nigeria’s system assumed a new dimension with the coming to power of Major General Ibrahim Babangida on August 27, 1985. While some agree that IBB started well, others believe the “Maradona” in him was simply aiming towards a personal goal.
Babangida had made everyone believe his government would operate a “low profile”. His official car was a Peugeot 504. Noticeable changes of extravagance however started coming when the “President” soon opted for a Peugeot 505 Limousine and later a fleet of Mercedes Benz Cars.
Though many acts of corruption were perpetrated in the course of his 8-year-rule, one of the most unpardonable among them is how the windfall from the oil prices in during the 1991 Gulf War was expended. It is an open secret that as a result of the war, oil prices across the world shot up and oil producing countries made mega fortunes from exporting crude oil. Nigeria was not left out. Surprisingly however, all the money Nigeria made from the sale of oil during that period, totalling about $ 12.4 billion developed wings during Babangida’s tenure.
Years after, many are still bold to say “Babangida made a lot of millionaires” in Nigeria. Interestingly, some of the millionaires he made are still in government and some of those who benefitted from his ;largesse as military President have turned against him and even did all they could to stall his plans to rule Nigeria again.
Babangida left an Interim Government in place when he stepped aside. The Ernest Shonekan led government was however ousted by General Sani Abacha in a matter of months.
The corruption that characterised the Babangida administration became more pronounced in the Abacha days. While his friends and loyalists enjoyed government patronage in monetary forms, his enemies, real or perceived were killed, jailed or forced into exile.
Bribes, both local and international went on unhindered in all sectors. The Siemens multimillion Euro bribery scandal started well before Abacha died with a meeting brokered by retired Police Inspector General, Dikko Yusuf.
While his children started the business of fuel importation, the dark-goggled General awarded contracts worth billions of Naira, most of which were inflated. Chrome Consortium belonging to Emeka Offor, one of Abacaha’s alleged fronts was given contracts for the turn around maintenance of two of the country’s refineries. The company got over $ 100 million for the job. The refineries however did not improve after that.
Abacha and his cronies almost looted Nigeria blind. After monies had changed hands, beneficiaries and hangers on started “earnestly asking for Abacha” to transform into a civilian President.
After his death, over $ 600 million was traced to his accounts across the United States while he had an equivalent of $ 1 billion stashed away in banks scattered all over Europe.
Those who thought Nigeria’s military rulers were more corrupt than politicians have started having a rethink as the return of power to a democratically elected government in 1999 did not change anything as far as looting is concerned.
Since 1999, the classification of Nigeria as one of the most corrupt nations in the world has not changed. In Obasanjo’s 8 years, Nigerian leaders in all tiers of government exhibited more corruption than ever done before. Not even the establishment of two anti-corruption agencies has done much to reduce the trend.
One of the first scandals that blew open was the National Identity Card fraud in which the then Minister for Internal Affairs, Chief Sunday Afolabi and some others were charged to court for mismanaging about $ 214 million.
Another notable fraud that took place in Obasanjo’s time was the one that rocked the power sector.
Over the years, Nigerians have continued to pay for services not rendered by the National electricity supply. While each house now generates its own electricity, the one supplied by the government has become secondary since the supply is erratic.
The over $ 13.8 billion expended on the power sector by the Obasanjo administration never did much to change the situation of Nigeria’s power sector. A large part of the country still remains in darkness years after the exit of the administration.
In 1999, the administration claimed it spent N6.697 billion on power, the following year, N49.780 billion was spent for the same purpose while in 2001, N70.927 billion was spent. The administration also spent N41.196 billion on power in 2002.
In 2003, the amount accounted for by the power sector was put at N55.590 billion, in 2004 it was 54.490 billion while N70.390 billion was spent in 2005. Year 2006 saw the government spending N72.393 billion on the sector, and before it left in 2007 N61.101 billion was spent.
Street Journal also gathered that the looting in the sector has not stopped with the exit of the Obasanjo administration as about N 2.3 trillion committed to the provision of electricity since 2008 has disappeared from the federation account.
The House of Reps constituted an ad hoc Committee to look into the monies spent on the power sector in the Obasanjo years. By the time the committee submitted its report, Obasanjo and a number of Ministers who served in the Power Ministry were indicted. A committee was quickly set up by the House to review the report. In no time, the recommendations earlier submitted were jettisoned as the review committee made nonsense of the original report.
The looting in Obasanjo’s time was of course not limited to the Ministries of Internal Affairs and Power. The Ministry of Communications too got into the news for wrong reasons. Ministers like Haruna Elewi (now deceased), Haliru Bello Mohammed (who incidentally is the current Defence Minister) and Cornelius Adebayo were all named in the Siemens bribery scandal in which about € 17,000 was paid to successive Nigerian Ministers of Communications by the German company.
In was the same story in the Aviation Ministry where Iss Yuguda, Babalola Borishade and Femi Fani-Kayode all served. Legal battles are still on over allegations of corruption levelled against the last two while Yuguda who is the current Governor of Bauchi State too had his own share of allegations of over bloated contracts as well as some unexecuted ones.
Chief Olabode George’s issue at the Nigerian Ports Authority will not be forgotten in a hurry. Though “Lagos Boy” has done his time, many still wonder how he and a few others managed to split contracts worth N 85 billion.
A good number of state Governors also joined the looting frenzy. At a point in time, the EFCC Chairman disclosed that his commission had files on 31 state Governors in the country.
What made Alamieyesegha’s case absurd was that he was apprehended by the police in London and at the time of arrest, the Nigerian Governor was in possession of a cash sum of about £ 1 million. His escape to Nigeria and arrest after made headlines then. In all, the loot recovered from the “Governor General” included N3, 128, 230, 294.83billion; $441,000; E7, 000 and £2,000, a hotel valued at N 2,6 billion and a mansion valued at N 210 million.
Senator Bukola Saraki;s name has been mentioned in quite a number of allegations of corruption. When he was the Governor of Kwarea State, it was alleged that the NN 2.3 billion paid as statutory allocation to Kwara State in April 2003 was deposited in the Societe Generale Bank which belonged to the Saraki family. Till date, local government allocations amounting to about N 8 billion during the Saraki years in Kwara have not been accounted for.
Many watchers of events in the banking industry were also surprised to hear that the former Kwara State Governor got a debt waiver that ran into billions of Naira from the Intercontinental Bank which has since been acquired.
The then Governor of Jigawa State, Saminu Turaki too got named in various scams. The EFCC slammed a 32-count charge of corruption on him after his exit. Turaki was alleged to have laundered about N 36 billion belonging to his state. Turaki’s methods of looting were said to be rather crude. On a particular day, he allegedly wrote cheques of N 500 million which were drawn across the counter by different people until it amounted to N 6 billion. He was also accused of cutting an existing road of about one kilometre in half and by the time the contract for the road was awarded, the contract sum was N 3 billion. Turaki’s companies also got contracts in Jigawa State while he served as Governor.
Turaki’s company, INC got oil blocks from the Federal Government in 2006. Only $ 20 million was paid instead of the $ 105 that should have accrued to the government. Interestingly, Turaki had a name in history as one of the fronts of the late Gen Sani Abacha. He even reportedly helped to transfer about $ 22 million into an account which he alleged belonged to Chief Obasanjo, Turaki claimed the fund was wired through Andy Uba. Street Journal gathered that it was in view of his “cooperation” with the Government then that he was not prosecuted for his role in helping Abacha to launder funds.
Joshua Dariye’s case was somewhat similar to that of Alamieyesegha. He too was arrested in London and as at the time Dariye was arrested on September 2, 2004 at the Marriot Hotel, London, over £ 90,000 was found on him. About £ 300,000 belonging to him was also confiscated by the London Metropolitan Police. But like his friend, the former Governor of Bayelsa State, he jumped bail in England and re-surfaced in Nigeria to continue his duties as Governor.
Contrary to the rules laid down in the code of conduct for public officers, as Governor of Plateau State, Dariye operated eight different bank accounts in the UK alone. Seven of the accounts were sterling while one was a dollar account. Like he did in London, he plotted a perfect escape from the EFCC as he knew he would be arrested immediately his tenure as Governor lapsed. In all, Joshua Dariye was alleged to have laundered about $ 9 million. And in spite of the allegations of fraud, Joshua Dariye is currently a Senator of the Federal Republic.
Former Abia State Governor, Orji Uzor Kalu too was alleged to have laundered about N 2.8 billion belonging to the state he ruled between 1999 and 2007. The story is the same about Peter Ayodele Fayose. The only difference seems to be that Fayose did not serve a full tenure before he was booted out.
Fayose who was one of Obasanjo’s favourites and many Ekiti indigenes would admit that he got away with many of the wrongs. Things however turned awry when he fell out with the then President. Fayose was found out to have paid about N 1.4 billion for the Integrated Ekiti Poultry Scheme. His friend was the contractor but up till the time Fayose was impeached, the work was not commensurate with what was paid. The matter has been in court since 2007 and it doesn’t seem to be coming to an end soon.
Senator Ladoja who governed Oyo State between 2003 and 2007 had a similar fate. He too was impeached before the end of his tenure, he was however reinstated by the court. Ladoja, a senior Ibadan chief was arrested by the EFCC on allegations that he failed to remit the proceeds of the sale of shares belonging to Oyo State in some companies. The figure involved was put at N 1.9 billion. His close aide who helped broker the deal to sell the shares later became a prosecution witness who testified how the money was shared. He listed Ladoja’s family members, body guard and some politicians in the state as beneficiaries.
At the end of Lucky Igninedion’s eight-year rule in Edo State, he was declared wanted by the EFCC. After a while, he showed up and handed himself over to the anti-graft commission. He was slammed with a 142 counts of corruption involving about $ 24 million which he allegedly laundered. He was also said to have converted shares belonging to Edo State Government in Access Bank and Afribank for personal use. The state’s shares in both banks were valued at about $ 7 million.
Though former Governor Victor Attah challenged the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission to arrest him if indeed the commission had anything against him, his name has become a recurrent decimal in the V-Mobile shares acquisition by former Governors Ibori, Tinubu and Attah. Incidentally, Attah is wanted in the UK and he got prominent mention in the case of James Ibori who was recently handed a 13-year jail term by a London court.
Senator Liyel Imoke and Dr. Segun Agagu were indicted by the report of the Ndudi Elumelu led committee that probed the spending of the Federal Government in the power sector over the past years. The two men oversaw the Power Ministry at different times before becoming Governors in their respective states. The list of former Governors smeared with allegations of corruption will be grossly incomplete without the names of the two Otunbas, Gbenga Daniel and Alao Akala who ran Ogun and Oyo States respectively. Both have been dragged to court by the EFCC.
By the time the Umar Yar’Adua administration came into office, it became clear that not even the legislature can be said to be immune to corruption. The House of Reps was involved an imbroglio as the then Speaker, Patricia Etteh voted N 628 million for the renovation of her official residence and that of her Deputy. Though the matter was eventually quelled and Etteh later absolved of wrongdoing, another incident that would convince Nigerians that indeed there is a problem with the leadership of the country later occurred. Etteh’s successor, Dimeji Bankole was dragged before a court over a scam that involved about N 40 billion.
Street Journal has also found out that the corruption in the Nigerian system involves people other than political office holders. For instance, Hadjia Turai, wife of the late President Yar’Adua launched an International Cancer Centre in Abuja in July 2011 and about N 10 billion was raised at the event. Close to three years after, the cancer centre is yet to kick off. The site is hardly different from what it was then.
The Goodluck Jonathan administration that took over has not fared better in any way. The House of Reps Committee that investigated the fuel subsidy regime uncovered a scam with a total of N 2.3 trillion. The Minister for Petroleum Resources, the former Accountant General of the Federation who is the current Governor of Gombe State, a former PDP National Chairman, and several companies including one belonging to the current Minister for Aviation have all been named in the subsidy scam. Alhaji Dankwambo, the then Accountant General was found to have made payments in equal installments of N 999 million 128 different times within 24 hours.