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Business News of Thursday, 11 November 2021


Top corruption cases that cost Nigeria trillions of dollars

A collage of some corrupt public officials A collage of some corrupt public officials

Nigeria, Africa's biggest economy has for decades been subjected to corrupt practices. According to a recent data published by Statistica, Nigeria’s GDP amounted to 514 billion U.S. dollars in 2021 and it records the highest gross domestic product in Africa.

While this should be good news, the country ranks 149/180 on the 2020 Corruptions Perceptions Index. In 2019, the country ranked 144th out of the 180 countries (with Somalia, at 180th, being the most corrupt, and Denmark the least) after moving up from the 148th position it occupied previously.

The corruption rank in Nigeria averaged 121.48 from 1996 until 2018, reaching an all-time high of 152 in 2005 and a record low of 52 in 1997, according to the Premium Times newspaper.

Corruption is rife in the West African country with high-profile personalities caught up in schemes that have tainted the image of the country globally.

Nigeria was estimated to have lost over $400 billion to corruption since independence.

While many believe there is still light at the end of the tunnel, the corrupt practices of some of Nigeria's elites which began decades earlier continue to fester.

History shows that it all began before the discovery of oil in 1956. The prospects of Nigeria becoming one of the most financially independent country on the continent or even the world was high. Prior to Shell striking oil just before independence at Oloibiri in the Niger Delta after half a century of exploration, Nigeria was dependent on Agriculture.

Research papers from the Edo University in Iyamho, indicate that agricultural activity dominated the economy through the period of the country's independence till 1973/74. Before colonization and the period until 1973/74, the agricultural sector accounted for more than 70% of the GDP and about 90% of employment.

Most of the country's leaders and governments from independence to date have been tied to one form of corrupt case or the other. Looting became a mainstay with the funds mostly from the country’s rich oil reserves diverted through the Central Bank of Nigeria to countries across the globe known popularly as safe-havens.

Nigeria and Nigerians became poor while other countries benefited from its wealth.

It wasn't until recently that the Nigerian Federal Attorney General and the Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami during a visit to the United States for the 76th United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) boasted that Nigeria has succeeded in recovering and repatriating most of its stolen assets.

The Civil Society Legislative Advocacy Centre observed that “in an accelerating trend in recent years, a much larger share of illegal proceeds has been confiscated within the Nigerian jurisdiction". The recently appointed head of the Nigerian Economic Financial Crime Commission (EFCC), Abdulrasheed Bawa, proudly announced that he had recovered over 6 billion Naira, over $161 million, over £13,000, €1,730, CA$ 200, CFA 373,000, ¥8,430 in just 100 days.

While the recovery of assets gained momentum, corrupt officials known and alleged to have been involved in schemes got protection from the government of the day.

The recently jailed former chairman of now-defunct Pension Reforms Task Team, Abdulrasheed Maina, who was sentenced to 61 years in prison (to serve 8 years concurrently), is proof that the fight against corruption remains alive. The 70-year-old was found guilty of money laundering in the sum of N171,099,000, almost $450,000.

Born in Borno in 1950, Maina worked as an administrator at the Nigerian Customs, Nigerian Immigration and the Prison Pension Office.

In 2011, he was appointed the chairman of the Pension Reform Task Team (PRTT) before he was suspended and later dismissed by President Muhammadu Buhari after his involvement in procurement fraud while in office.

In July 2015, the EFCC charged Maina alongside former Head of Service, Steve Oronsaye, Osarenkhoe Afe and Fredrick Hamilton B Global Services Limited for alleged procurement fraud and obtaining by false pretense.

After his sentence was pronounced on Monday, November 8, 2021, the judge said the two banks alleged to have aided Mr. Maina must have their licenses withdrawn for their roles in serving as conduits for stealing pensioners’ funds.

Before justice was served Maina, there have been high-profile corruption cases that have shocked Nigerians to the core. Here are a few major corruption scandals involving top Nigerian politicians that continue to haunt the image of the leading producer of crude oil in Africa.

General Sanni Abacha

Abacha was popular for his stern approach to governance. He was infamous for annulling the results of the June 12, 1993, general elections. That election to date is described as one of the most peaceful the country has ever witnessed.

What made him more infamous was the discovery that he stole $5 billion according to Transparency International and kept them in banks abroad. It wasn’t until he died in 1998 that Nigeria began identifying and fighting to recover the looted funds.

The recovered monies were stashed in four countries, i.e., Switzerland, Jersey Island in the United Kingdom, United States and Liechtenstein.

Successive governments have tried recovering the looted funds. During the Abdulsalami era in 1999, $750 million was recovered. Under the Obasanjo administration, $1.2 billion was recovered in 2002; $149 million from Jersey Island, UK in 2003; $500 million recovered in 2004 from Switzerland and another $458 recovered in 2005 from Switzerland.

During the Jonathan administration, $1 billion was recovered in 2012 and $380 million in 2015, both tranches from Switzerland. The Jonathan administration also recovered $227 million from Liechtenstein in 2014 and $48 million from the United States the same year.

Lucky Igbenedion – Governor of Edo State

Lucky Igbenedion, a former governor of Edo state is the first ex-Nigerian governor to be convicted of looting public funds. After his tenure as governor of the state, he was declared wanted by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) the country’s anti-graft agency for embezzling an amount of US$24 million (£12m) using front companies.

He was charged with 142 counts of corruption after he turned himself in at the Lagos office before, he was flown by the commission to Abuja. Lucky entered a plea bargain with the commission in 2008 and refunded a fraction of the amount he was said to have embezzled – and went home.

Late Diepreye Alamieyeseigha – Ex-Governor of Bayelsa State

The late Alamieyeseigha was sentenced to two years in jail in 2017 on charges of corruption and money laundering. The former governor of Bayelsa State in oil-rich Nigeria was reported by the New York Times to have embezzled as $55 million in Oil Ministry revenue, spending it on luxuries and homes around the world.

He died at the age of 62 at the University of Port Harcourt hospital after he suffered health complications resulting from his transfer from a hospital in Dubai, in the United Arab Emirates, to avoid being extradited to Britain, where he was wanted on money-laundering charges and for skipping bail, according to his successor, Gov. Seriake Dickson. He was also charged with money laundering by the United States, the New York Times reported.

According to reports, Mr. Alamieyeseigha acquired houses in London, California and South Africa and an oil refinery in Ecuador, while tapping into public coffers to build an airport in his hometown and an Olympic-size stadium in the state capital, among other public projects.

James Ibori – Ex Governor of Delta State

The former governor of Delta State, James Ibori was sentenced to 13 years in prison for stealing $250 million of public funds within the period he served as governor of the state by a London Judge.

After pleading guilty to 10 counts of money laundering and conspiracy to defraud at Southwark Crown Court, London, he was released from prison in December 2016 after a court order, according to PMNews Nigeria.

He served only 4 years out of the 13 years he was sentenced to.