from Africa in Transition

Nigerian Corruption Exposed

June 16, 2017

A portrait of former President Goodluck Jonathan the day after he launched his unsuccessful campaign for a second term in office in Lagos, January 8, 2015 Akintunde Akinleye/Reuters
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An important factor in the 2015 presidential victory of Muhammadu Buhari—the first time in Nigeria’s history that the opposition came to power through the ballot box—was the perception that the administration of incumbent president, Goodluck Jonathan, was deeply corrupt. Contributing to that impression were the credible charges by the governor of the Central Bank at the time, Lamido Sanusi, that billions of dollars in oil and gas profits had not been properly remitted to the Nigerian government’s federation account, and had disappeared. In response, President Jonathan removed Sanusi from his Central Bank position. His removal did not damage his credibility, however, and Sanusi subsequently became the Emir of Kano, one of the most important traditional Islamic offices in Nigeria. 

Following an investigation, the executive secretary of the Nigerian Extractive Industry Transparency Initiative (NEITI) reported on June 7 to a House of Representatives panel that, between 2011 and 2014, $36.9 billion in proceeds from oil and gas was not remitted to the federation account. According to NEITI, the Nigeria National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) was responsible for $21 billion in unaccounted for remittances, while the other $15.9 billion consisted of dividends owed to the government by the Nigerian Liquefied Natural Gas (NLNG) Ltd. Both the NNPC and the NLNG are government-owned.

NEITI is a state agency established by law to implement the principles of the world-wide Extractive Industry Transparency Initiative, and it reports directly to the president. Its executive secretary’s report should be taken as credible, though there will likely be claims that its findings are a politically motivated effort to further discredit the Jonathan administration. Even so, the report adds to the evidence supporting Sanusi’s claim, and the magnitude of the apparent corruption cannot be understated: the sum lost is almost equivalent to the federal government’s annual national budget. 

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