By Farooq Kperogi
In a June 23, 2020, article titled “Sabiu Yusuf’s Fat Bank Accounts that Shocked CBN Governor” where I revealed that Muhammadu Buhari’s relative Sabiu “Tunde” Yusuf had salted away so much money in banks that even former CBN governor Godwin Emefiele was so alarmed that he advised him to divvy up the money into different accounts, I said, “The stench bomb of fetid corruption that will explode after Buhari leaves office would be so unprecedentedly malodorous it would deaden Nigeria’s collective nasal sensibility for a long time.”
At the time, some people thought I was merely being hyperbolic for literary effect. But isn’t that what is happening now? Every day, we are regaled with stories of mindless, freewheeling theft of our public wealth by officials and relatives of Muhammadu Buhari. And what we’ve learned so far is just a tip of the iceberg.
All that happened during Muhammadu Buhari’s eight-year reign was unstrained, stratospheric, eyewatering corruption the scale of which Nigeria had never experienced. It was a raucous, brazen, cheerfully irresponsible kleptocratic bazaar. While it happened, governance took the backseat, leading me to characterize Buhari’s reign as the era of “ungovernance.”
The Central Bank of Nigeria under Emefiele and the Ministry of Humanitarian Affairs, Disaster Management and Social Development under Sadiya Umar Farouq are competing for frontrunner status as outposts of the most decadent kleptocratic predation.
Emefiele, whom I described in a May 14, 2022, column as an “infernally incompetent, exceptionally corrupt, mind-blowingly self-serving, incomprehensibly clueless, overweeningly ambitious, and cruelly insensitive” clown, became the conduit for unmentionable financial crimes against Nigeria involving Buhari’s relatives, close friends, and associates. While feathering his own nest, he was a dutiful poodle of the consciencelessly thieving, ill-famed Aso Rock cabal, which humored him by telling him he would succeed Buhari in 2023.
“If someone wrote a tragicomic drama script about Godwin Emefiele’s scandal-ridden reign as a central bank governor and his ludicrously insane attempts to run for president using the financial and symbolic resources of the central bank while still a central bank governor who hurls consequence-free insults and wishes death upon critics for calling attention to the manifest conflict of interest that his presidential run represents, literary critics would pillory the script for its implausible plot,” I wrote about Emefiele in my May 14, 2022 column titled “Emefiele: A Corrupt, Inept, Heart-Attack-Loving Presidential Wannabe.”
Sadiya Umar Farouq’s Ministry of Humanitarian Affairs, Disaster Management and Social Development has also turned out to be one of the most putrid morasses of venality and fraud during the Buhari years. Sadiya is now predictably dodging the EFCC using the favorite tactic of Nigerian elites entwined in the web of accounting for their corruption: pretense of ill health.
When I read that the EFCC was inviting her to account for more than N37 billion that she allegedly laundered, I was shocked by the “smallness” of the amount in light of what I know about the magnitude of pillaging she perpetrated at the ministry. I was relieved when I read a January 4th EFCC statement saying, “We are still tracing all the transactions, hence we cannot put a figure to everything now as the investigation is still ongoing.”
We are talking here of a woman who spent more than N500 million to feed non-existent schoolkids in their homes in Lagos, Ogun, and the FCT while schools were closed in 2020, a woman whom a 2017 Daily Nigerian report said stole dabinos worth millions of naira donated to IDPs by Saudi Arabia during Ramadan (which she hasn’t denied) while she was Federal Commissioner in charge of the National Commission for Refugees, Migrants and Internally Displaced Persons.
In a June 15, 2023, appearance on the Brekete Family radio show in Abuja, Muhammed Kazaure Gudaji, a member of the House of Representatives representing the Kazaure, Roni, Gwiwa, Yankwashi Constituency of Jigawa State who is famous for his brutal forthrightness, verbal directness, and less than perfect English articulation, said what most of us know.
A rock-ribbed Muhammadu Buhari partisan, Gudaji nonetheless pointed out that enormous theft of public resources took place during the Buhari regime, and that if the government of Bola Ahmed Tinubu wanted to be taken seriously, it must arrest and investigate 12 high-profile personages of the Buhari regime.
He gave their names as former Godwin Emefiele; former EFCC chairman Abdulrasheed Bawa (and Magu, too); Group Managing Director of NNPC Mele Kolo Kyari; Former Justice Minister and Attorney General of the Federation Abubakar Malami; former FIRS chairman Muhammad Mamman Nami; Sabiu “Tunde” Yusuf; DG of NIMSA Bashir Jamoh; Mohammed Bello-Koko of the Nigerian Ports Authority; Hadiza Bala Usman also formerly of NPA; all CBN deputy governors who served with Emefiele; and the “entire leaders of the National Inter-Bank Settlement System.”
I have no knowledge of the corrupt dealings of everyone on Gudaji’s list— or whether, in fact, he has a basis to accuse them of colossal corruption—but I have learned not to dismiss the man with a wave of the hand because of his rhetorical unsophistication. And the fact that Emefiele, Bawa, Sadiya, and some CBN deputy governors are under probe months after his plea to Tinubu should tell us that he isn’t a flippant blabbermouth.
Of course, Buhari is aware of the massive corruption that took place in his government. I know for a fact, for example, that he was aware of Sabiu “Tunde” Yusuf’s ill-gotten wealth. I have also been reliably informed that he helped cover the corruption of family members who were caught abroad with unusually large amounts of cash.
Two weeks ago, for instance, someone close to the Buhari family shared with me a disturbing story of the last-minute monkey business that the Buhari family perpetrated with Buhari’s own active connivance.
He wrote: “The son of a very prominent Nigerian (he held no official role, but was the most powerful Nigerian after PMB) in the previous government was arrested and detained for 2 days in England for bringing into the country cash worth millions of dollars/pounds.
“The Nigerian government, with direct intervention of the former president Buhari, intervened and used the Nigerian embassy in London to rescue the son who is in his 30s and related to PMB. This happened when PMB was in Saudi Arabia for the lesser hajj so you can guess the period it happened.
“The money was seized by the UK government initially, but the Nigerian high commission in London insisted that the money was meant for ‘security’. They got the money back and handed it over to the young man who stashed it away in London in preparation for them leaving power.”
Although I have not independently verified the authenticity of this disturbing story, I have chosen to share it publicly because it is consistent with a pattern I am deeply familiar with. The coming days will reveal the financial crimes Buhari, his family, and associates committed against Nigeria.
Unfortunately, some of the crimes Buhari’s people committed in his eight-year reign are reappearing now. It has now come to light, for example, that Betta Chimaobim Edu, the successor to Sadiya Umar Farouq has started the same pattern of theft by her predecessor.
In a leaked December 20, 2023, memo to the Accountant-General of the Federation, Edu instructed that money designated for “Vulnerable Groups in Akwa Ibom, Cross River, Ogun and Lagos,” which amounted to more than N500 million, should be paid into the private UBA account of a Bridget Mojisola Oniyelu in violation of Nigeria’s public sector financial regulation law.
The regulation says public money should not, under any circumstance, be paid into private bank accounts. “Any officer who pays public money into a private bank account is deemed to have done so with fraudulent intentions,” section 713 of the act says.
This is a momentous moment for Tinubu. If he does not fire Edu forthwith and bring her to justice, he has already lost the moral high ground to try Buhari’s corrupt honchos.