from Africa in Transition

Bribery and Election Rigging Stand Trial in Nigeria

June 20, 2017

Nigeria's Petroleum Minister Diezani Alison-Madueke (C) attends the flag-off for Nigeria's President Goodluck Jonathan's campaign for a second term in office, in Lagos January 8, 2015. Akintunde Akinley/Reuters
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A trial now underway appears to provide granular detail about the role of bribery in rigging elections. Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN) Dele Belgore is standing trial after allegedly collecting N450 million ($1.4 million) from former Petroleum Minister Diezane Alison-Maduekwe for payoffs in Kwara state before the 2015 elections. Standing trial with Belgore is former Minister of National Planning Abubakar Suleiman. The beneficiary of these bribes would have been the candidacy of incumbent President Goodluck Jonathan. Testifying at the trial was a witness for the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), Usman Zakari.

In Nigeria, as in the United States, the accused is presumed innocent until proven guilty, and the Belgore and Suleiman trial is still underway. Nevertheless the EFCC is a credible organization, and its witness was testifying under oath.

According to Nigerian media, Zakari testified that the money was distributed in this way:

  • The commissioner of police of Kwara state received N10 million ($31,800) in cash.
  • The deputy commissioner of police received N2 million ($6,360) in cash.
  • The assistant commissioners of police for operations and administration in Kwara state each received N1million ($3,180) in cash.
  • The resident electoral commissioner in Kwara received N10 million ($31,800) in cash.
  • The Independent National Electoral Commission’s (INEC) administrative secretary in Kwara received N5 million ($15,900) in cash.
  • INEC head of department, operations and “his boys” received N5 million ($15,900) in cash while “other officers” shared N2 million ($6,360).

In addition, it has been reported that members of the Motorized Police (MOPOL) received a total of N17 million ($54,600) and the director of the state security service “and his men” received N2.5 million ($7,950). Military serving in Kwara were also implicated, receiving N50 million ($159,000), but the news report provided no breakdown of how this was distributed. “Other security agencies” received N20 million ($63,600).

It may be argued that the payments are legitimate. In fact, the EFCC is accusing Belgore and Suleiman not directly of corruption but rather of distributing cash outside of any financial institution, which is illegal. However, given Nigeria’s history of corruption around elections, it is likely that much or most of the money was bribes.

If the allegations are true, the picture is breathtaking: police, military, and INEC personnel in Kwara state would have accepted bribes on behalf of the incumbent Jonathan administration. What’s more, they failed. The margins were simply too great to overcome: Muhammadu Buhari’s All Progressives Congress (APC) won 302,146 votes against Goodluck Jonathan’s Peoples Democratic Party’s 132,602. Nevertheless, the episode illustrates the difficulty of achieving free, fair, and credible elections in Nigeria.

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