Corruption in Nigeria.

Corruption in Nigeria.

When I was coming of age, in Nigeria, my generation was caught up in the socio-economic and political schisms and apathy that had ravaged the future of four generations before me and many behind mine, since the independence of Nigeria in 1960. These generations I speak of were told that ‘education is power and you most earn because you are the leaders of tomorrow’, but the ‘tomorrow’ of the young leaders never came because the political elite and their cohorts keep recycling themselves in government. My generation watched as those generations behind us, despite their qualitative education, were economically stiffened by the austerity imposed on Nigeria through the stringent conditions of the IMF/World Bank’s Structural Adjustment Programme. Many ended up minor jobs such as riding motorcycles as a taxi, earning less than 2 dollars a day to put food on table for their families. Large numbers emigrated to Europe, rendering the country brain-drained, whilst some in that generation resorted to vicious armed-robbery to forcefully take from the political elite and the rich who had robbed them of their future. I was engulfed by fear that this was going to become the fate of my generation.

 Favouritism to Elitism.

The modern form of corruption in Nigeria stems from the favouritism and elitist approaches that the Nigeria colonial master, Britain, adopted to rule over the tribes in Nigeria. British missionaries in Nigeria, at the time, were used as an avenue to select the next Nigerian elites who were favoured to acquire education, because families reverted from their traditional religion to Christianity and those tribal leaders that sold out during the tribal uprising against British imperial invasion such as the Ijebu’s Imagbon war, by ceding their territories to the British imperial authority in exchange for royalties and post in the colonial authority. Those Nigerian tribes and families that benefited from such British atrocities became the political king-makers in Nigeria today. Those civilians vying for political offices but lacking such elitist connections turned to political king makers (godfathers) with the promises of sharing their plunders from the public money they embezzled. Another form of elites are the military dictators that overthrew the civilian governments because of the politics of godfatherism and embezzlement. The military took power with the promise of eradicating corruption, only to carve a higher pedestal for themselves within the elite class, embezzling even more public funds and becoming the paramount king-makers in the country.

President Goodluck Jonathan, 2010-present.

Nigeria’s incumbent President Goodluck Jonathan has taken the number one spot in the People With Money’s top 10 highest-paid political figures for 2014, with an estimated $82 million in combined earnings, yet more than 80 per cent of Nigeria live in abject poverty earning less than £1 a day.

Nigeria President, Goodluck Jonathan.

In 2014, when the Governor of Nigeria’s Central Bank, Mr Sanusi, raised concerns that the missing $20bn (£12bn) from Nigeria’s petroleum sales had been diverted to fund campaigning for February 2015 elections, the governing People’s Democratic Party will face its biggest challenge since taking power in the 1999 elections that ended decades of military dictatorship. Mr Sanusi was sacked by Mr Jonathan, whose leadership has been dogged by one gargantuan corruption scandal after another since he took power in 2010. Another corruption allegation, in 2012, of missing public funds has ended without resolution. No one has been prosecuted for a fuel-subsidy scam uncovered in 2012, in which some $17bn was paid to companies for fuel that never was delivered. It is very likely that no solution with be found to this recently-vanished $20bn (£12bn). His wife, Patience, was investigated by anti-corruption officials in 2006 over allegations that she tried to launder some $13.5m (£8.5m).

President Gen. Obasanjo embezzlement, 1999 – 2007.

Former president of Nigeria Olusegun Obasanjo

By the end of his elected presidential tenure in 2007, General Obasanjo, who was also military president in the 1970s, had embezzled N850 billion (£3.4 billion)! Gen Obasanjo used his position to corner a lion’s share of Transcorp, a bluechip company that was formed overnight to suck juicy federal government contracts and make public corporation acquisitions, which was incorporated in November 2004 and officially launched on 21 July 2005 at the Presidential Banquet Hall, State House, Abuja, with Obasanjo as the special guest of honour.

Late Chief Gani Fawehinmi, the human rights lawyer, sued the former president of the Code of Conduct Bureau over the activities of Transcorp, and his shareholding in the company was seized under Section 18(2) of the Code of Conduct for public officers contained in the fifth schedule, part 1 of the 1999 Nigeria Constitution.

Fawehinmi was outraged that during the formal launch on 21 July 2005, Obasanjo announced some concessions to the corporation as part of government support and encouragement. These included: the licence to build a 400,000-barrel per day refinery; licence to build an independent power plant; access to the federal government cassava project for the construction of cassava processing exports facility; designed land mass for the construction of free port facilities; continued support to help open up market on the African continent and to make Transcorp a partner in Nigeria’s current policy on private/public partnership; creating additional opportunities to develop large scale projects in oil and gas; and power and information and communications technology.

As Fawehinmi put it, the company acquired three prime business interests from Nigeria Federal Government: four oil blocs, OPL218, 219, 209 and 220 allocated by Obasanjo when it was launched; Nicon-Hilton, Abuja in October 2005 for $105million; and Nigerian Telecommunication Corporation on 3 July 2006 for $750million.

The lawyer noted that the Director-General of the Nigerian Stock Exchange (NSE), and the Chairman of Transcorp, Dr. Ndi Okereke-Onyiuke, admitted before the House of Representatives that the former president is a subscriber to Transcorp through Obasanjo Holdings Limited.

President, Gen. Sanni Abacha, 1993- 1998.

Former Head of State, Gen. Sani Abacha.

Gen. Sani Abacha was the Head of State of Nigeria from 17 November 1993, when a military coup brought him to power, until his death on 8 June 1998. The greed of Abacha, who rule for just five years, shocked even Nigerians – who are used to plundering on a grand scale. He is believed to have stolen $4.3bn whilst in office. His regime was riddled with systematic corruption and misappropriation of public funds as well as serious human rights violations, including arbitrary executions. The size of the accounts identified so far dwarf those found by the Swiss authorities belonging to the former presidents Mobuto of Zaire and Marcos of the Phillipines. Most of the British funds, in more than 20 accounts, are thought to be in branches of HSBC, Barclays, Citibank, the French bank Credit Agricole-Indosuez, and subsidiaries of two Nigerian and four other European banks. The sheer scale of the military junta’s kleptomania only became apparent after Abacha’s death from a heart attack in June 1998, while he was cavorting with three Indian prostitutes.

Following the return of democracy in May 1999, the Federal Government of Nigeria initiated worldwide mutual assistance and criminal proceedings, which led to the recovery of more than $1 billion to date, with several additional hundreds of millions of US dollars still being the object of pending forfeiture proceedings.

 President, Gen. Ibrahim Babangida (IBB), 1985 to 1993.

Former Head of State, Gen. Ibrahim Babangida (IBB).

IBB is known as ‘evil genius’ and nicknamed ‘Maradona’ in Nigeria because of his dubious cunning political ways. Before IBB overthrew Gen. Muhammadu Buhari, he did not belong to the elite class but by the time he left office in 1993 had became a political gravitational force to be reckoned with. It is almost impossible to ascertain how much Babangida is worth. However, in 1999 Babangida had $24.67 billion in Western banks alone. He is very discreet with where he keeps his looted public fund. According to the Financial Times in a report submitted to President Gen. Olusegun Obasanjo by the World Bank, IBB has  £6.25 billion with British banks, $7.41 billion with Swiss banks, $2 billion in US bank accounts and $9 billion in German banks. Gen. Babangida’s cohort that helped him to siphon Nigerian public funds to Europe was a giant German construction company in Nigeria owned by Julius Berger. Julius Berger went on to construct IBB’s N2 billion hilltop mansion residences in Mina, Niger State, which was financed by the public funds he plundered from the “State House” project.

Gen. Ibrahim Babangida and US government covert operations.

In 1986 Time Magazine reported that during the Reagan administration the U.S had the elite commando unit, the SEALS, dispatched to several different countries for covert activities. This unit was in Nigeria in August 1985, during the week that Babangida overthrew Gen. Muhammadu Buhari. Gen. Babangida overthrew Buhari/Idiagbon’s regime because it fought vehemently against drug-traffickers and the rampant bribery and corruption that had taken hold of the code of conduct of government officials executing their statutory day to day duty and awarding contracts.

After the coup the CIA cut a deal with Babangida, where Nigeria was used as a major drug transit and money-laundering corridor for the proceeds of the CIA drug trade. The rogue bank BCCI (Bank of Credit and Commerce International) was used to launder the proceeds of the drug business and take them out of the country. Nigerian investigative journalist Dele Giwa uncovered presidential corruption on drugs and was about to break the news in his Newswatch magazine in 1986.

On the 19th of October 1986 Dele was at his home on Talabi Street, Ikeja, Lagos, about to eat his meal with the Newswatch London bureau chief Kayode Soyinka, when his son, Billy, brought in a large brown envelope addressed to him and carrying what appeared to be the official federal government seal. Two men in a Peugeot had delivered the parcel to Dele’s home. As Dele attempted to open the parcel, which he believed had come from the office of the Nigerian president Gen. Ibrahim Babangida, it blew up. It was a parcel bomb. Dele’s lower half was almost severed from his body, and he died in the explosion.

Hope 1993 and Gen. Ibrahim Babangida.

Gen. Ibrahim Babangida and Chief MKO Abiola.

As I became clever enough as a child, I watched as Nigeria’s military authoritarian president Gen. Ibrahim Babagida beguiled the nation in the so-called most free, fair and cross-tribal election in Nigeria’s electoral history, which in 1993 would had ushered in M.K.O. Abiola (one of the richest people in the world at that time) as Nigeria’s democratically-elected president in a landslide victory. Through his very popular Social Democratic Party MKO. campaigned under the slogan of ‘Hope 1993’ by arguing for reparation payments of thousands of trillions of dollars to Africa as compensation for the enslavement and colonisation of Africa from all those countries who benefited from trans-Atlantic slavery and colonialism, as a way of negating not just Nigerian sovereign debt, but the debt of African countries’ generally. However, he was imprisoned for his victory.

MKO Abiola’s 1993 presidential election poster.

That year I saw how the Yoruba tribe turned on the Hausas for betraying and denying the country of its mandate. We watched as another army General, Sani Abacha, took advantage of the tribal conflict to over-throw the interim government put in place to reconcile the nation by Gen Babangida when he stepped aside. Kofi Annan was delegated by the world leaders to meet with MKO Abiola and ask him to relinquish and renounce his mandate if he wanted to be released, but MKO refused and died in prison.

MKO Abiola alighting from ‘Black Maria’ after his arrest.

On July 7 1998, the same day the government had announced Abiola would be released, Susan Rice and Ambassador Thomas Pickering led a US delegation to visit the Nigerian president-elect: they were to make the last attempt to convince MKO to denounce his mandate and go for another election. However, MKO Abiola suffered a fatal heart attack during the meeting. The media were later told by Abiola’s personal security detail, Assistant Police Superintendent Theodore Bethnel Zadok, in his testimony before the Oputa Panel in 2002 investigating MKO’s death, that Rice had served him tea from a flask that they came with – which Hamza Al-Mustapha, former president Gen Abacha’s Security Adviser, described as multi-dimensional. They poured themselves tea and poured tea for Abiola during the meeting, and then he developed cardiac symptoms and died within minutes.

According to the Nigerian Punch, since Obama nominated Susan Rice for the position of National Security Adviser questions have been asked in the Nigerian media alleging her role in the death of the winner, Chief MKO Abiola. In an interview in June 2013 Dr. Ore Falomo, MKO Abiola’s personal physician, accused the CIA of involvement in the death of Abiola. Former Nigerian Minister of Aviation Chief Femi Fani-Kayode, in an opinion piece also published in the Nigerian Punch, revisited the question that has been the subject of speculations alleging CIA involvement in the death, alleging and that Rice may have knowingly or unknowingly played the role of messenger of death in the case.  While the official autopsy states that Abiola died of natural causes, the final autopsy report, which was produced by a group of international coroners, has never been publicly released.


At this juncture in Nigeria’s history, we can all agree that the leadership of the current elite, Goodluck Jonathan alike, that has dominated and continued to recycle itself into power since 1960, unequivocally lacks the political will, social and moral responsibilities to redeem and empower the young people that are commonly said to be the leaders of tomorrow, who are left at the mercy of the chronic abject poverty, despair and disparity which is ravishing the country’s potentially prosperous future.

As Nigerians did in the 1993 election, where all tribes and religions put their issues aside and came together – which by the way, is the most free and fair election in the history of the nation – the young people must come together now, across gender, tribal and religious lines, and be the example for our corrupt leaders to follow because these sects are not the problem but our leaders are for making us turn on each other as the enemy.

The young people in Nigeria must grasp the fact that the leaders in government have failed us and robbed us of our future as they have stolen the futures of the generations before us. We, the young people, must start thinking and strategizing for contesting and grabbing power from the ne’er do well leaders in government, forestalling this oppression from being imposed unto us and the generation behind us. Because we have virtually done everything humanly possible that a striving human would, but we have nothing to show for it, except for being trapped in the same bubble as our parents and the generations before us.


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