As Minister of Finance under the government of Olusegun Obasanjo, Nigeria’s returnee Minister of Finance and Coordinating Minister for the Economy, Mrs. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, steered public contracts to her brother worth up to $50 million, with the help of the Minister of the Federal Capital Territory, Mr. Nasir El-Rufai, yet another WikiLeaks US cable issued in 2004 says.
The contracts were said to have been awarded to the man, identified only as “JonJon,” for consulting work for the ministry.
The detailed cable, which spells out corruption allegations against a variety of powerful Nigerians, are contained in a cable in which the United States was considering response to the corruption machine in Nigeria. Entitled “CORRUPTION: NIGERIA "IMPROVES" TO SIXTH-WORST IN THE WORLD...WHAT CAN WE DO ABOUT IT?” it followed the release by Transparency International of its 2005 Annual Corruption Perceptions, and it was written by the Ambassador in Nigeria, Mr. John Campbell.
It showed the ambassador considering using the tool of U.S. visa revocations under Presidential Proclamation 7750 to punish corrupt Nigerian public officials, after noting that President Obasanjos anti-corruption campaign was widely perceived to be nothing more than a political witch hunt by President Obasanjo, a view supported by examining cases targeted at high-level officials.
Mr. El-Rufai was himself one of those profiled in the cable, where he is identified as having been known to the Embassy eight years earlier “when he was homeless and seeking a loan to import a taxi from the UK.”
Since that time, wrote the ambassador, El-Rufai was said to have recently purchased seven upscale properties in a posh Abuja neighborhood. “His demolitions of commercial and residential buildings in the capital have reportedly provided an opportunity for himself and several of his friends. After demolishing residential properties in Kubwa, the land was reallocated to several of his friends and to an investment company he allegedly owns. The community of Chika, where about two square miles of development was demolished in December, has allegedly been allocated to the same group of
The cable pointed out that despite all of the headlines being grabbed by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) and its chairman, Nuhu Ribadu, that Commission as well as the Independent Corrupt Practices Commission (ICPC), had won only a single conviction of a high-level public official:, former Inspector-General of Police Tafa Balogun, who received a sentence of just six months, less time served.
Mr. Campbell pointed out that corruption in Nigeria remained pervasive from the top down. “For example, in a widely-circulated August 22 letter to President Obasanjo, Abia State Governor Orji Uzor Kalu accused Obasanjo of corruption, listing a number of dubious deals, including:
• Cancellation of the contract for the construction of the national stadium in Abuja, only to re-award the contract to a different vendor at a higher price; and
• Use of public funds for capital improvements at two private schools secretly owned by Obasanjo.
“Obasanjo's response was to agree to be "investigated” by the EFCC, which reports to the President. When the EFCC invited Kalu to provide evidence to support his accusations, Kalu refused, pointing out that the EFCC was not an independent investigative body and had no authority to prosecute the President, and the investigation died out.”
The report also profiled Obasanjo Farms in Otta. “A Presidential spokesman said in November 2004, in order to explain Obasanjo's personal wealth, that the farm generated about $250,000 per month in income, though it was nearly bankrupt in the late 1990s (ref A). Regardless of whether the current income figure is accurate, at least some Nigerians think it is unlikely that Obasanjo's military pension and benefits were the sole source of investment for establishing this huge enterprise, valued by a construction engineer involved in the construction at more than $250 million.
Still on Obasanjo, Ambassador Campbell wrote: “The recent auction of oil blocks included some firms bidding, sometimes with no prior ties to the oil industry, that were linked to Obasanjo associates, including Edmund Daukoru, Rivers State governor Peter Odili, Ogun State governor Gbenga Daniel, presidential advisor Andy Uba, presidential chief of staff Abdullahi Mohammed, Minister of the Federal Capital Territory Nasir al-Rufai and PDP Board of Trustees Chairman Tony Anenih.”
The report also said of Obasanjo that he was believed to be one of the owners of Suntrust Petroleum. “And questions remain about the Obasanjo Library project, which collected enormous sums of money from government contractors, banks, industrialists, and state governors, ostensibly for the construction of a presidential library, the plans for which are vague.
It is widely believed throughout the country that Obasanjo and his son, Gbenga, are major shareholders in the newly reorganized Zenith Bank and UBA Bank as well as in airlines and the telecommunications sector.”
The ambassador wrote that each of the nation’s 36 state governors donated 10 million naira (about $75,000) to the Obasanjo library project. “Following a public outcry, the library organizers stated the donations were from the governors' personal funds, but several governors backpedaled from their commitments, claiming they had made no such pledges. When a Lagos lawyer filed a code of conduct complaint alleging conflict of interest in the President's receiving these donations from recipients of government funds, Obasanjo invoked the immunity clause of the constitution, and the complaint died out.”
Some of the other notable people profiled include:
• “Mr. Fix-It” Tony Anenih, who “was indicted by the National Assembly for the sum of 300 billion Naira (approximately $2.4 billion) missing from Ministry of Works and Housing while he was the minister. The missing money is widely believed to have paid off 2003 elections "expenses," including to Balogun, in addition to lining his own pockets.
• Chief Olabode George, current PDP National Chairman (Southwest) is a close friend of President Obasanjo and a leading proponent of the Third Term Agenda. He is one of the people accused of financial recklessness in the affairs of the National Port Authority, where he was chairman when the financial scandals were allegedly committed. He was retired
from the Navy in the 1990s by the Babangida Administration after serving as military governor of Ondo State from 1987 to 1990 in addition to other military postings.
• Chris Uba, recently appointed to the PDP Board of Trustees, admitted rigging during the 2003 elections and attempted to kidnap the governor of Anambra state to try to collect payments for his efforts. Linked closely to several vigilante groups in the state, he is widely believed to be
responsible for the burning of many state government buildings in Awka, crimes that have yet to be solved.
• Edo State governor Lucky Igbenedion purchased a $6 million mansion in London in 2000 through a series of shell companies, a year after he was elected governor. He has two Ferraris on the premises. He also owns reputedly the most expensive residence in Abuja, estimated at $25 million.
• Delta State governor James Ibori owns two London estates. The properties were purchased for $3 million and $4 million, respectively, after Ibori was elected governor. Through a shell company registered to his London-based wife, he offered for public auction an ongoing supply of 6 million barrels of oil per month. When reporters confronted his wife, the shell companies abruptly changed their directors so that Ibori's wife was no longer listed.
• Rivers State governor Peter Odili has built an impressive portfolio from his corrupt dealings as governor of one of the oil-rich states in Nigeria since his first election in 1999. Beginning his political career as a medical doctor with a small private clinic in Port Harcourt, he now hosts
extravagant events and boasts that it would not have been possible "before he became governor." Further, he is widely suspected of being directly responsible for facilitating massive irregularities in both the 1999 and 2003 elections. His own state officials have claimed that Odili has employed militia groups, many of which are responsible for the continuing unrest in the delta region.
The ambassador said that that the biggest influence the United States could have on the situation in Nigeria was the “judicious use” of U.S. visa revocation for corrupt practices, under US law.
“Though we are unable to identify every corrupt official, the Mission is compiling a list of some prominent and egregious corrupt officials from throughout the country,” he wrote. “This list will take into consideration the individuals, levels of corruption and the impact on Nigerian stability of a [US Presidential Proclamation] 7750 decision.
He said that list could “be expanded in many directions,” but the United States Mission in Nigeria felt that feels that such an effort “would demonstrate the sincerity and seriousness of the USG's commitment to good governance and, if these individuals are found ineligible, that finding could contribute greatly to entrenching the precepts of good governance and accountability in Nigeria.”
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