Nigeria has been plagued by corruption for decades, despite the efforts of various governments and anti-corruption agencies to curb the menace.
According to the 2023 Corruption Perception Index by Transparency International, Nigeria ranked 145 out of 180 countries, with a score of 25 out of 100 points. This means that Nigeria is perceived as one of the highly corrupt nations in the world, and the 10th most corrupt in Africa.
Corruption in Nigeria affects all sectors and levels of governance, from the Presidency to the local government councils. It also involves different forms and methods, such as bribery, embezzlement, fraud, money laundering, contract inflation, certificate forgery, abuse of office, and more.
In this report Premium Politics highlights some of the most corrupt cases involving high-profile public office holders in Nigeria, based on the available evidence; closed and ongoing trials.
– Betta Edu: Suspended Minister of Humanitarian Affairs and Poverty Alleviation was arrested
In January 2024, Betta Edu was suspended from office by President Bola Tinubu following public outrage over the disclosure that she authorised the payment of N585.2 million public funds into a private account in violation of financial transparency laws.
Edu’s suspension comes days after local media cited an official memo in which she directed that 585 million naira ($663,000) worth of grants meant for vulnerable groups should be paid into a private account — a decision that the minister’s office said followed due process. The minister has denied any wrongdoing and she is still being investigated by the EFCC.
– Diezani Alison–Madueke: Former Minister of Petroleum Resources, wanted by EFCC for allegedly laundering $20 billion from the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation.
A PBS NewsHour segment quoted American and British officials saying that Alison-Madueke might personally have organized a diversion of $28 billion from the Nigerian treasury. In October 2023, Alison-Madueke appeared in court in the UK to face trial for bribery charges, following her prior arrest in 2017. The EFCC also announced that they had secured an arrest warrant for Alison-Madueke on money laundering charges and were seeking her extradition.
– Sambo Dasuki: Former National Security Adviser, accused of diverting $2.1 billion meant for arms procurement to fund political campaigns.
On 1 December 2015, Dasuki was arrested by Nigeria’s State Security Service for allegedly stealing $2.1 billion and accused of awarding phantom contracts to buy 12 helicopters, four fighter jets, and ammunition meant for Nigeria’s military campaign against Boko Haram Islamist militants. In November 2018, Dasuki was refused bail by the government despite being granted bail by four different high court judges. The State Security Service released Dasuki from detention on the 24 December 2019.
– Olisah Metuh: Former National Publicity Secretary of the People’s Democratic Party, charged with receiving N400 million from the office of Sambo Dasuki.
On 5 January 2016, Olisa Metuh was arrested by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, answering questions regarding some fund (Arms Deal) said to have been traced to his firm. On September 27, 2022, a Federal High Court in Abuja struck out the suit filed by EFCC against Metuh for retrial.
– Gabriel Suswam: Former Governor of Benue State faced trial for allegedly laundering N3.1 billion from the state treasury.
Suswam and his former finance commissioner, Omadachi Oklobia, were arraigned before the Federal High Court in Abuja on an 11-count amended charge in 2015. EFCC accused them of diverting N3.1 billion proceeds from the state government’s shares held on behalf of the state by the Benue Investment and Property Company Limited in some firms. However, on December 6, 2023, the EFCC closed its case against the former governor.
– Abidemi Rufai: Former Senior Special Assistant to the Governor of Ogun State, arrested in the United States for allegedly defrauding the Washington State Employment Security Department of over $350,000 by using stolen identities to file fraudulent unemployment claims.
A United States district court on September 27, 2022, sentenced Abidemi Rufai to five years imprisonment for fraud. The District Court in Western Tacoma in Washington jailed Mr Rufai for wire fraud and aggravated identity theft.
– Muhammed Bello Adoke: A former Attorney General of the Federation who was accused of receiving $6 million in bribes to facilitate the controversial $1.3 billion Malabu oil deal.
On 21 December 2016, EFCC officially filed charges against Adoke on nine counts that as of when he was the Attorney General of Nigeria he approved a transfer transaction of $1.1 billion to Nigerian bank accounts managed by former Minister of Petroleum, Dan Etete. The $1.1billion was paid by Royal Dutch Shell and Eni to the Federal government account for OPL 245 oil bloc.
On June 17, 2022, following the court order and case closure, Bello Adoke hailed the judgment of the Commercial Court of England and Wales which ruled that there was no evidence of fraud in the transfer of proceeds from the sale of OPL 245 in the controversial Malabu oil deal.
– Abdulaziz Nyako: Former Senator and son of former Governor of Adamawa State, standing trial for allegedly laundering N29 billion from the state coffers.
On January 18, 2022, EFCC secured nine judgments against a former Adamawa State Governor, Vice Admiral Muritala Nyako rtd, his son, Senator Abdulaziz Nyako and seven of his business partners in just one day.
The anti-graft agency in Abuja secured the nine judgments against the former governor in the N29bn fraud charges brought against them since 2015.
Abdulaziz Nyako is still standing trial as the case has not been closed by the EFCC and a judgement has not been passed yet by the court.
– Femi Fani-Kayode: The former Minister of Aviation was charged with laundering N4.6 billion.
Fani-Kayode was arrested in December 2008 by the EFCC and charged with 47 counts of money laundering but he stated that he was innocent and that the monies were funds received from his own private businesses and legitimate sources and had nothing to do with government funds.
He said that the investigations of the Yar’Adua government and the EFCC were politically motivated, and he was being persecuted in the same way as other colleagues from the Obasanjo government, such as Nasir Ahmad el-Rufai and Nuhu Ribadu, for their ties to President Obasanjo.
However, Femi Fani-Kayode, was discharged and acquitted on 1 July, 2015, by a Federal High Court sitting in Lagos on the two counts of money laundering preferred against him by the EFCC.
– Peter Nwaoboshi: The Delta North Senator was arraigned for allegedly laundering N322 million from the Niger Delta Development Commission.
In April 2018, EFCC arraigned Nwaoboshi on charges of fraud and money laundering. The prosecution claimed Nwaoboshi’s companies bought a Lagos building for ₦805 million in 2014 with the knowledge that ₦322 million of the payment would be used illegally; Nwaoboshi denied the claims and entered a not guilty plea.
In June 2021, Nwaoboshi was cleared of the fraud and money laundering charges after presiding Justice Chukwujekwu Aneke said the EFCC failed to prove the charges and relied on hearsay.
– Lawrence Adedibu Ojerinde: Former Registrar of the Joint Admissions and Matriculation Board, accused of embezzling N5 billion from the examination body.
A Federal High Court in Abuja on February 9, 2022, was told how Professor Lawrence Adedibu Ojerinde allegedly floated eight companies, purchased three buildings and bank shares through his cronies while holding public office. Arraigned alongside Ojerinde were his three sons, Olumide Abiodun Ojerinde, Adedayo Ojerinde, and Oluwaseun Adeniyi Ojerinde, as well as his daughter-in-law, Mary Funmilola Ojerinde.
The family’s companies also put on trial were Doyin Ogbohi Petroleum Ltd, Cheng Marbles Limited, Sapati International Schools Ltd, Trillium Learning Centres Ltd, Standout Institutes Ltd and ESLI Perfect Security Printers Ltd.
Apart from the alleged unlawful sale of Federal Government property in Ghana, the former JAMB registrar was accused of using fake names to acquire companies, open bank accounts, acquire petroleum stations, and buy landed properties in Ilorin, Kwara State, while he was a public officer. The charges also indicated that his sons acted as agents to facilitate the alleged sale of the house in Ghana
A witness of the Independent Corrupt Practices and other related offences Commission, Peter Iyiola Oyewole, made the revelations while testifying for the anti-graft agency in a N5.2bn corruption charges against Ojerinde. The case is still ongoing, although Ojerinde and his sons were granted bail.
– Muktar Ramalan Yero: Former Governor of Kaduna State, facing trial for allegedly receiving N700 million from the office of former Minister of Petroleum Resources, Diezani Alison Madueke.
On November 27, 2018, also re-arraigned with the ex governor were former Minister of State, Nuhu Somo Waya; former Kaduna State PDP Chairman, Abubakar Haruna Gaya and the former Secretary to the State Government, Hamza Ishaq. They were arraigned before Justice Z.B Abubakar of the Federal High Court Kaduna on an eight-count amended charge for criminal diversion of N700million.
Their prosecution began after investigations revealed that the accused persons allegedly benefited in the $115million diverted by former Minister of Petroleum Resources, Diezani Alison Madueke which was shared to politicians and election officials in the 36 States of the federation to influence the result of the 2015 presidential election. Following their pleas, the defense counsel, Yunus Ustaz Usman urged the court to extend to the defendants, the terms of the bail earlier granted them by the former judge. Justice Umar granted bail to the defendants on the same terms earlier offered them by the court, while they are still standing trial.
– Orji Uzor Kalu: Former Governor of Abia State and current Chief Whip of the Senate, convicted of laundering N7.1 billion from the state funds, but later released on technical grounds.
Kalu was convicted by the Lagos Division of the Federal High Court on Thursday, 5 December 2019 and sentenced to 12 years in prison for N7.65 billion fraud.
He was convicted for defrauding the government of Abia State where he was a governor for eight years using his company, Slok Nigeria Limited.
On Friday, May 8, 2020, the Supreme Court ruled that his trial was wrongly conducted and released him from prison while ordering a retrial.
Although still awaiting a retrial, Kalu was released from the custody of the Nigerian Correctional Service Kuje on Wednesday 3 June 2020.
– Adesola Amosu: The former Chief of Air Staff was charged for allegedly laundering N21.4 billion from the Nigerian Air Force accounts.
On Jan 27, 2016, EFCC arrested and detained Adesola Amosu over allegation of corruption in arms procurement during his tenure as Chief Of Air Staff in which over $2.1 billion arms procurement deal were diverted for personal use.
Amosu is still facing trial with judgment yet to be given on his case.
– Aishatu Bandado Magaji: Former Director of Finance and Accounts at the Federal Ministry of Works, Power and Housing, arraigned for allegedly owning N1.3 billion worth of properties from illicit proceeds.
On July 19, 2021, EFCC said it obtained an order of the Sokoto State High Court for the permanent forfeiture of about N1.3 billion said to have been traced to the bank account of one Aishatu Magaji.
The anti-graft agency said in a statement by its spokesperson, Wilson Uwujaren, that the money was part of the proceeds of illicit activities. Although the commission did not give the particulars of the alleged criminal activities, it said the court issued the order of final forfeiture following the court’s earlier July 2, 2021 order of interim forfeiture.
Magaji was never recorded to have been arrested, arraigned or convicted.
– Farouk Lawan: Former Chairman of the House of Representatives Ad Hoc Committee on Fuel Subsidy, was tried for allegedly soliciting and collecting $500,000 from billionaire businessman Femi Otedola to remove his company from the list of indicted oil firms.
In February 2013, Lawan was charged with corruption after he allegedly accepted $500,000 from Femi Otedola, a Nigerian billionaire oil tycoon, as part of a $3 million bribe Lawan had solicited from Otedola. On 22 June 2021, the trial of Farouk Lawan came to a logical conclusion as the judge, Angela Otaluka, sentenced the former federal lawmaker to seven years in prison. He went to the court of appeal and the sentencing was reduced to five years. The Supreme Court upheld his conviction on January 26, 2024, after he appealed the initial seven-year sentence given by the trial court.