by Saharareporters, New York
The eighth National Assembly of the Federal Republic of Nigeria parades a long list of suspected thieves more than the number any anti-graft agency can prosecute in one administration. The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC have investigated a good number of the serving senators at one time or the other for embezzlement, money laundering, diversion of public funds and other criminal charges.
In fact, nine of the lawmakers including the senate president currently are involved in corruption cases that have reached various stages of trials in courts. SaharaReporters profiles these lawmakers with blemished records of public service.
1. Bukola Abubakar Saraki
Senator Bukola Saraki, the Senate president of the Federal Republic of Nigeria is a man whose name has become a major topic in the discussion about corruption in Nigeria. He represents Kwara Central constituency at the upper chamber.
The senator, in connivance with his aides and associates, allegedly laundered N3.5 billion traced to the Paris Club loan refund to states. The senate president also allegedly acquired assets beyond his legitimate earnings while he served as a governor of Kwara State for eight years and operates off-shore accounts in violation of the law which forbids a public officer to own bank account abroad.
He is currently facing a 13-count charge at the Code of Conduct Tribunal (CCT), and his spouse, Mrs. Toyin Saraki, has a file at the EFCC over alleged squandering of Kwara State funds.
His bid to stop the trial at the CCT suffered a setback at the Supreme Court last year when the court dismissed his appeal and upheld an earlier decision by the Court of Appeal, ordering him to face trial at the tribunal. Saraki, a medical doctor by training, reportedly emptied the treasury of his father’s bank Societe Generale Bank of Nigeria (SGBN) when he served as an executive director.
The bank finally collapsed in 2003 after the Saraki Dynasty recklessly looted to fund their political activities that saw Bukola become the Governor of Kwara state in 2003. Mr. Saraki’s thieving career started in 1990 according to police documents.
“Office of the Inspector General of Police, detailed a scheme by the siblings Bukola and Gbemi Saraki, along with Tokunbo Salami, Jude Iluyomade, and Mohammed Bashir. From 1990 to 2000, according to the Inspector General’s report dated August 21st 1990, Ms. Gbemi Saraki worked in the Treasury Department of Societe Generale Bank Nigeria while now-Senate President Bukola Saraki was a director of the bank. The Saraki family owned the largest shares of any Nigerian in the bank, a fact they exploited to obtain unsecured loans and engage in several other illicit transactions that saw to the bank’s demise.
In one letter to Nigeria’s Inspector General of Police, Societe Generale Paris, which owned a majority stake of Societe Generale Nigeria, accused the Sarakis and their cohorts of defrauding the bank out of 510,000 Naira through illegal and “unauthorized withdrawals of money.”
Part of the letter read, “the amount, in this particular case, N510, 000, was cashed by Miss Gbemi Saraki—the daughter of Dr. Olusola Saraki [Senator Saraki’s father]. Miss. Gbemi Saraki works in the Treasury Department of Societe Generale Bank (Nigeria) Limited where the alleged thefts constantly take place…Miss Saraki signed for the collection of the cash.”
The letter also accused their father, Olusola Saraki, who died on November 14, 2012, of involvement in “stealing N8.5 million out of N10 million illegally withdrawn from the account of the Bank to purchase a house in Ikoyi.”
2. Godswill Obot Akpabio
The senator representing Akwa Ibom North-West, Ikot Ekpene is the minority leader in the Senate. He was the governor of Akwa Ibom State for eight years. EFCC has alleged him of appropriating N108.1billion of Akwa Ibom funds. Sources close to the governor alleged he has embezzled a lot more than what EFCC is charging him for.
Akpabio, who is the vice chairman of the Senate Committee on Judiciary, Human Rights and Legal Matters, was twice invited by the EFCC in 2015, over the allegation of fraud. The anti-graft body in February 2017 impounded a school building in Akwa Ibom belonging to his wife pending completion of the investigation.
3. Ben Murray-Bruce
The Bayelsa Senator Benjamin Murray-Bruce, former Director General of Nigerian Television Authority between1999 and 2003, allegedly diverted a loan he obtained from Union Bank of Nigeria to purchase a posh property in Beverly Hills, California in 2007.
Bruce and his brothers used their companies to borrow funds from the bank at various times, and they repeatedly defaulted in paying back. Asset Management Corporation of Nigeria, AMCON purchased the loan in 2011 to save the bank from collapsing. AMCON is now seizing the assets belonging to the three companies used in securing the loan – Silverbird Productions Limited, Silverbird Showtime Limited, and Silverbird Galleria Limited.
Mr. Bruce, the self-proclaimed “Commonsense Senator”, was one of the most vocal senators during the #BuyNaijaToGrowTheNaira, a movement that criticizes those who needlessly import foreign goods. He touted his reputation for building businesses in Nigeria to champion the importance of domestic investment in goods.
Sources from different banks in Nigeria told SaharaReporters that the N11 billion loan Bruce took out from Union Bank around 2007 was supposed to be used to construct the Abuja Entertainment Center. But instead of using the loan to fund his Nigerian business operations, he diverted it to purchase an opulent property in the Beverly Hills area of Los Angeles and London.
The Los Angeles County Property Assessor’s Office, the Real Estate Records office, and the Special Investigation unit confirmed to SaharaReporters that the Nigerian senator from Bayelsa State purchased a property on August 6th, 2007 and remains the owner. The address is 605 North Camden Drive, Beverly Hills, CA 90210.
A public records search, also confirmed by municipal employees in Los Angeles County, assessed the value of Senator Bruce’s land at $3.1 million. The value of the mansion and other structures at the property was estimated at no less than $795,000.
The senator’s Beverly Hills swanky property has four bedrooms, three bathrooms, and a swimming pool and is estimated to be at least 2,777 square feet. Assessments of real estate platforms show that the property is worth $5 million as of today.
4. Dino Melaye
Self-styled progressive and anti-corruption activist, Senator Dino Melaye a.k.a “Daniel Jonah Melaye” is the Senator representing Kogi West. He illegally operates foreign accounts in the United States, despite that the Nigerian law forbids a public officer to operate a foreign account.
Melaye operates a current account with number 4460 1649 8396 under the name “CampusEdge, senatorial” and regular savings account with account number 4460 1647 5966 with Bank of America in the state of Maryland. He is a close ally of the embattled Senator Saraki.
The senator recently bought a home in Abuja valued at N1.3 billion ($6.5 million). The house is located at 11 Sangha Street, off Mississippi Street, in the Maitama upscale neighborhood of the city. Mr. Melaye who recently embroiled in a certificate scandal has no publicly known source of income, yet he parades a variety luxury automobiles emblazoned with vanity license plates customized to his adopted name.
5. Joshua Chibi Dariye
Senator Joshua Dariye, former governor of Plateau State, is representing Plateau Central senatorial district in the Senate. He was the governor of Plateau State from 1999 to 2003 and was re-elected in 2003 before he was impeached in 2006.
The senator is being prosecuted by EFCC, on a 23-count charge bordering on money laundering and diversion. Dariye is alleged to have siphoned the state’s ecological fund to the tune of N1.162 billion. Before his arrest and trial in Nigeria, Dariye was first arrested for money laundering in London in 2004. However, he jumped bail and fled to Nigeria before charges were filed against him in the UK. He is the chairman Senate Committee on Solid Minerals.
6. Peter Nwaobosi
Senator Peter Nwaobosi is a senator representing Delta North and the Chairman Senate Committee on Niger Delta Affairs. The Senator and his brother Augustine Nwaoboshi have been alleged of defrauding Delta State to the tune of N2.1 billion. The two men shortchanged the people of Delta by supplying used equipment in place of new ones to Delta State government and went away with N2.1 billion.
The Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, Senator is reported to have used the proceeds to acquire several properties in Lagos and Delta States using his companies as fronts. The senators and his brother allegedly operate over 20 bank accounts for fraudulent purposes.
7. Stella Odua-Ogiemwonyi
EFCC has traced N3.6b in stolen funds to former Minister of Aviation Stella Oduah.
As Minister of Aviation, Ms. Oduah secured several multi-billion naira contracts to upgrade Nigeria’s 22 airports. It was later revealed that much of this money went into the minister’s private account and that the program’s progress that she touted was grossly overstated.
Documents made available to SaharaReporters showed that of the 192 contracts awarded in the second phase of the program, only six were completed.
Ms. Oduah first came under scrutiny after compelling the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority to buy her two bulletproof BMWs valued at N255m. The House of Representatives and a presidential committee indicted the minister for violating the country’s procurement regulations.
8. Buruji Kashamu
Buruji Kashamu is a Nigerian senator representing Senatorial district, and the vice chairman of the Senate Committee on States and Local Governments.
The senator is wanted in the United States for being a drug baron; he has for a long time avoided traveling to the US. The elections tribunal court in Nigeria annulled his election but was later upheld by the Appeal Court. His case is still in court.
9. Theodore Ahamefule Orji
Theodore Orji representing Abia Central senatorial district was the former governor in his state. Orji together with his wife and son allegedly looted his state to the tune of N47 billion He was accused of embezzlement of funds that were meant for the several development projects in the state. His case is still pending.
10. Lt. General Jeremiah Timbut Useni
Lt. General Jeremiah Useni, a senator representing Plateau South was the Federal Capital Territory Minister during General Sanni Abacha regime. He served Nigeria in various capacities as Minister for Transport and as Quarter-Master General of the Nigeria Army and was accused of looting the public fund running to billions along with his principal, Abacha.
The media reported in 1998 that over N4 billion was found in his palatial country home at Langtang by the combined team of SSS and DMI officers, and over N2 billion of the money was in foreign currency. Also found at his house in the millionaires’ quarters on the British-American road Jos, were a dozen of coaster buses then valued at N110 million, brand new Peugeot cars, jeeps and nine latest models of Mercedes-Benz cars.
Sources in Jos, who witnessed the raid, said they saw several bags of money being moved out of Useni’s house where he has an underground vault. Like several other army generals who looted the treasury during Abacha regime, he is yet to be prosecuted by any anti-graft agency.
TO BE CONTINUED TOMORROW…