Nigeria’s President Muhammadu Buhari, who was inaugurated May 29 2015, is the antithesis of the stereotypical Nigerian politician, but his reform agenda appears to be sauntering out of the gates, according to the civil society-run Buharimeter.
Writing today on the Washinton Post, Mr Matthew Page said Buhari’s reform agenda probably faces its greatest threat from corrupt, old-school politicians within his own All Progressives Congress (APC) party. Buhari should neutralize some of the APC’s shadiest figures, who could emerge as “veto players,” as described in Carl LeVan’s recent book.
Corruption, one the challenges facing Africa’s most populous nation and largest economy continue to grow. Nigerians nevertheless expect their new president’s reform agenda to show tangible results, and soon. Given these imperatives, one of the things Buhari can do to get the ball rolling is to carefully clean house.
Examples of these kleptocrats are not hard to find. The U.S. Department of Justice has accused one sitting APC governor of helping former dictator Sani Abacha steal at least $458 million from state coffers. Likewise, both APC candidates in the upcoming Kogi and Bayelsa State governorship elections have been indicted by Nigeria’s anti-corruption agency.
1. Atiku Bagudu
On Wednesday, March 5, 2014, the current All Progressives Congress governorship candidate in Kebbi State, Atiku Bagudu, was indicted by the U.S. government as the Americans froze more than $458 Million Stolen by former Nigerian Dictator in Largest Kleptocracy Forfeiture Action Ever Brought in the U.S.
The Senator formerly representing Kebbi Central, on the ticket of the Peoples Democratic Party, dumped the party to contest the state’s governorship position on the platform of the All Progressives Congress.
The Department of Justice has frozen more than $458 million in corruption proceeds hidden in bank accounts around the world by former Nigerian dictator Sani Abacha and conspirators including Aalhaji Bagudu. A civil forfeiture complaint in the United States District Court in the District of Columbia seeks recovery of more than $550 million in connection with the largest kleptocracy forfeiture action brought in the department’s history.
“General Abacha was one of the most notorious kleptocrats in memory, who embezzled billions from the people of Nigeria while millions lived in poverty,” said Acting Assistant Attorney General Raman. “This is the largest civil forfeiture action to recover the proceeds of foreign official corruption ever brought by the department. Through our Kleptocracy Initiative, we are seizing the assets of foreign leaders who steal funds that properly belong to the citizens they serve. Today’s action sends a clear message: we are determined and equipped to confiscate the ill-gotten riches of corrupt leaders who drain the resources of their countries.”
The over $458 million in frozen funds and the additional assets named in the complaint represent the proceeds of corruption during and after the military regime of General Abacha, who assumed the office of the president of the Federal Republic of Nigeria through a military coup on Nov. 17, 1993, and held that position until his death on June 8, 1998. The complaint alleges that General Abacha, his son Mohammed Sani Abacha, their associate Abubakar Atiku Bagudu and others embezzled, misappropriated and extorted billions from the government of Nigeria and others, then laundered their criminal proceeds through the purchase of bonds backed by the United States using U.S. financial institutions.
As alleged in the complaint, General Abacha and Atiku Bagudu and others systematically embezzled billions of dollars in public funds from the Central Bank of Nigeria on the false pretense that the funds were necessary for national security. The conspirators withdrew the funds in cash and then moved the money overseas through U.S. financial institutions. General Abacha and his finance minister also allegedly caused the Government of Nigeria to purchase Nigerian government bonds at vastly inflated prices from a company controlled by Bagudu and Mohammed Abacha, generating an illegal windfall of more than $282 million. In addition, General Abacha and his associates allegedly extorted more than $11 million from a French company and its Nigerian affiliate in connection with payments on government contracts. Funds involved in each of these schemes were allegedly laundered through the United States.
2. Timipriye Sylva
In June 2015, The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission filed fresh charges of corruption against a former governor of Bayelsa State, Timipre Sylva, at a Federal High Court in Abuja.
Mr. Sylva is being charged alongside three others – Francis Okokuro, Gbenga Balogun, and Samuel Ogbuku – for allegedly using three companies, Marlin Maritime Limited, Eat Catering Services Limited, and Haloween-Blue Construction and Logistics Limited to move about N19.2 billion from Bayelsa State coffers between 2009 and 2012, under false of using the withdrawn money to augment salaries of the state government workers.
The EFCC spokesperson, Wilson Uwujaren, said the agency awaits the assignment of the case by the court in order to pave way for the arraignment of Mr. Sylva and the other accused. The commission had two cases against the former governor pending before two Federal High Courts in Abuja, and needed to consolidate them, the EFCC had said.
Sylva is the APC governorship candidate in the forthcoming election in Bayelsa state.
3. Accused of 11 billion naira fraud, a former Governor of Kogi State, Abubakar Audu, has emerged candidate of the All Progressives Congress, APC, in the state governorship election slated for November 21 2015.
Mr. Audu is being prosecuted by the anti-graft agency, EFCC, of misappropriating N11 billion of the state’s funds while he was governor between 1999 and 2003.
At the trial of the corruption case on March 4, the EFCC also accused Mr. Audu of ordering one of his aides to assault Haruna Ashade, an EFCC operative, for daring to take his photograph in court
Nevertheless, Mr. Audu emerged winner of the APC governorship primary which was held in Lokoja.
Governor Nasir El-Rufai of Kaduna State, the Chairman of the Electoral Panel, commended the aspirants for their maturity and commitment to the ideals of the party. Mr. El-Rufai urged Mr. Audu and other contenders to quickly close ranks and work together to ensure the victory of the party in the coming election. He advised Mr. Audu to live up to his position as a leader and father, describing APC as a big family.
Admittedly, housecleaning carries political risks for Buhari. After all, his victorious electoral coalition included powerful defectors from former president Goodluck Jonathan’s People’s Democratic Party (PDP). If he unduly antagonizes these establishment figures, they could derail his party’s newfound dominance by joining their former comrades in the opposition PDP.