LAGOS— At least 110 Nigerian individuals and companies, including Governor Abubakar Sadiq Bello of Niger State, Senators Andy Ubah and Ibrahim Gobir have so far been identified in the leaked PanamaPapers to operate offshore shell companies in tax havens.
The list, which also contained top business persons, politicians, and their family members, detailed names of companies, their owners and the particular tax havens the offshore firms are domiciled.
An online publication, Premium Times, which revealed the list, is the only Nigerian media organisation with exclusive access to the documents obtained by German newspaper, Süddeutsche Zeitung, and shared by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ) with over 80 media organisations around the world.
Since April 3, 2016, when the news of the unprecedented leak broke worldwide, the publication had published series of exclusive reports about the offshore assets of prominent Nigerians named in the database that is now globally referred to as #PanamaPapers.
Some of them, who are public officer holders, held the assets in violation of Nigerian law, failing to declare them to the Code of Conduct Bureau.
The investigation revealed the assets of some of Nigeria’s most powerful individuals, including Africa’s richest man Aliko Dangote; President of the Senate, Bukola Saraki; the boss of Oando, Nigeria’s biggest indigenous oil firm, Wale Tinubu, in tax havens such as the British Virgin Islands, Panama, and Seychelles.
The unprecedented year-long investigation involving 11.5 million secret documents, which stretch from 1977 to December 2015, exposed the hidden underground of the world economy, a network of banks, law firms and other middlemen that utilize shell companies, sometimes using them to hide illegal wealth.
The 2.6 TB files, involving 214,488 entities, also revealed hundreds of details about how former gun-runners, contractors and other members of the spy world use offshore companies for personal and private gain.
The investigation unveiled the cloak of secrecy provided by Mossack Fonseca, the Panamanian law firm that specializes in creating offshore companies, some of which had been used by con men and women to hide Ponzi schemes, predatory lending scams, and other financial frauds from their victims and from the authorities.
Contacted for his reactions, Gobir, who is Senate Committee on Senate Services, was said to have travelled out to Saudi Arabia for lesser hajj.
His Media Assistant, Bala Kassim, said his boss left the country yesterday, adding that there was no way he could be reached for responses to the allegation.
On his part, Vanguard sent text messages to the three lines of the Chairman, Senate Committee on Public Accounts, Senator Andy Uba, PDP (Anambra South) to comment on allegations, but there were no responses.
Also, efforts made last night to reach Governor Bello and the two senators proved abortive as calls made to their mobile phones remained unanswered.