Dozens of officials implicated in $9 billion Nigerian theft
The Nigerian information minister says that 55 high-ranking officials and businessmen stole $9 billion from the country's treasury over a seven-year period, including billions earmarked for weapons to fight the terrorist group Boko Haram.
At the top of the list: former President Goodluck Jonathan, who apparently stole the weapons money to fund his losing campaign for re-election.
The looted 1.35 trillion Nigerian naira could have built 36 hospitals or educated 4,000 children through university, Mohammed said. He said it was stolen between 2006 and 2013, when the naira stood at about 150 to the dollar, half today’s value. Mohammed did not identify the 55 accused but said bankers and businessmen are among them.
The funds include $2.1 billion meant to buy weapons to fight Boko Haram’s 6-year-old Islamic uprising that has killed some 20,000 people but instead was diverted to the election campaign of former President Goodluck Jonathan and his party, Mohammed said. Jonathan lost March 2014 elections to former military dictator Muhammadu Buhari, who promised to halt corruption and the insurgency.
Buhari said Monday that a multinational force has driven Boko Haram into “fall-back positions” and uprooted them from all territory they held.
Mohammed denied that the war against corruption was a vendetta against the opposition. He said, “If we don’t kill corruption, corruption will kill Nigeria.”
Nigeria’s judiciary is critical to the fight, he said. Three different courts have granted bail to Jonathan’s former national security adviser, Sambo Dasuki, who is accused of being instrumental in the theft of the $2.1 billion and has said he diverted the money on Jonathan’s orders. Buhari has said he will not allow Dasuki out of detention.
Nigeria is extraordinarily corrupt. If you're a foreigner, you can't leave the airport without paying someone off. The simplest business transaction – although few business transactions in Nigeria are simple – requires the paying of bribes to the right officials.
This has been known for years. Yet, in 2013, the U.S. gave Nigeria more than half a billion in economic and military assistance. How much of that went into the bank accounts of Nigerian officials? We'll never know. And Nigeria is seeking massive debt relief so it can get more international development loans – a ripe target for malfeasance.
USAID does a better job than most in seeing to it that our tax dollars are spent where they're supposed to. But in such a corrupt climate, it's impossible to follow the cash all the way to the intended. There are middlemen who themselves may keep a portion of the aid or be forced to pay bribes. There's little USAID can do about that.
The entire developing world is a cesspool of corruption. The biggest reason for that is that there is little respect for the rule of law. The U.S. has been slipping in that regard for decades, and you have to hope that trend reverses itself before it will be hard to tell the difference between Nigeria and the U.S.