By Soni Daniel & Levinus Nwabughiogu
ABUJA—Details of how much money some powerful but corrupt Nigerian politicians have stolen and hidden away in foreign land in recent years have begun to emerge.
The details of the stolen funds are contained in President Muhammadu Buhari’s biography, entitled Muhammadu Buhari: The Challenges of Leadership in Nigeria, which was unveiled in Abuja on Tuesday.
According to the book, at least $20 billion of Nigeria’s oil proceeds are stolen and stashed away in banks in two United Arab Emirates’ major cities, Dubai and Abu Dhabi, by some key officials of the previous administration.
The book listed a former Comptroller-General of the Nigeria Custom Service, former chairman of the defunct Pension Reformed Task Team, who was alleged to have stolen $2.8 million, and hidden in the Arab nation.
The book said: “In some cases, fake names were used to hold such properties. Nigerian security sources believe that as much as $20 billion in stolen Nigerian funds had been packed in banks and invested in properties in UAE’s two major cities of Dubai and Abu Dhabi.
“Some officials were believed to be hiding in Dubai, among them the former CG of NCS and the Chairman of the now defunct Presidential Pension Reformed Task Team, who was wanted in Nigeria for allegedly stealing $2.8 million. Several PDP governors, high level PDP officials had property in UAE.”
It will be recalled that it was in an effort to track the looted funds and bring the culprits to justice that President Buhari travelled early this year to UAE to seal a Mutual Legal Assistance, MLA, with the government to pave way for the prosecution of the officials and repatriation of the stolen cash.
“The two countries signed an extradition agreement which explicitly pledged UAE help on the recovery and repatriation of stolen assets and extradition of Nigerian fugitives.
“In late January, panic began to grip former PDP government officials, who had previously seen no reason to fear that their property holdings in UAE would be exposed and become vulnerable to legal actions by the Nigerian government,” the book also stated.
The book said that although Buhari had vowed to do everything in his power to rid the country of corruption, he also made it clear that he would not interfere with the legal process.
“Although a number of senior officials had been tried for corruption, prior to Buhari’s Presidency, the essence of the current corruption court cases in Nigeria is unprecedented. That does not mean that every case would lead to guilty verdict. All of the accused are entitled to their day in court and are likely to have high quality legal representation; and there will surely be appeals and possible plea bargains.
“Cases may drag on for years. But the fact remains: that the law is taking its course. Importantly, in none of these cases (apart from certain military procurement scandals that impacted National security) has the prosecution been sponsored or encouraged by President Buhari.
“He has kept his hands off the judiciary despite enormous pressure for him to come to the aid of the APC allies. The question will arise when criminal cases are concluded as to whether the Nigerian judiciary is up to the task of being even-handed in such high level cases.
“Buhari’s attitude is to let the chips fall where they may, in particular cases, although reforms of the judiciary is one of his larger goals.
“Buhari has often said that if any of his children were accused of corruption and the authorities did not investigate he would never forgive the authorities.
“On numerous occasions, Buhari has urged public officials to do their duties without fear or favour. He has also tried to inspire younger generation to regard public service as an honest calling.
“For instance, the current head of the EFCC, Mr. Ibrahim Magu, was a school boy in Borno, when Buhari was a military governor in 1975. Buhari gave a talk to a group of boys that included Magu and urged them to do their best. Magu was inspired and became a professional policeman.
“In 2015, Buhari asked Magu to head the EFCC, a dangerous job if done well. By mid May 2015 Magu had secured 143 convictions of corrupt officials.”