Since its establishment in 2004 during the administration of ex-President Olusegun Obasanjo, the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) has been entrusted with the crucial role of investigating financial crimes in Nigeria. However, many Nigerians find themselves contemplating the agency’s effectiveness in fulfilling its mandate, particularly when it comes to holding former governors accountable once their immunity expires upon leaving office.
Nigerian governors, by virtue of the federalist system of governance the country practises, wield enormous power, including overseeing the wealth of their respective states….CONTINUE READING
The impunity often perpetuated during the tenure of many Nigerian governors is being passively allowed to continue, much to the detriment of the citizens, many of whom survive on less than $1.9 per day. This is due to the provision of Section 308 of the Nigerian Constitution, as amended, which grants immunity to serving governors and their deputies from being investigated and prosecuted.
Less than a month after leaving office, former Governor of Benue State, Samuel Ortom, was arrested by the EFCC and questioned on allegations of financial misappropriations. While he was later released after 10 hours of questioning, this is a trend that most Nigerians are familiar with. On March 17, 2022, barely 24 hours after he handed over leadership to Governor Charles Soludo, former Governor of Anambra State Willie Obiano was arrested at the Murtala Muhammed International Airport in Lagos in an alleged attempt to flee the country.
However, many Nigerians are wondering to what logical conclusion are these corruption charges pursued.
Here are 10 governors, many of whom are crucial members of the present administration, with pending corruption charges.
A two-term governor of one of Nigeria’s poorest states, Zamfara, Abdulaziz Yari has been accused of orchestrating heinous financial crimes. When he left office in 2019, his successor, Bello Matawalle, created the Zamfara State Project Verification Committee to investigate corruption and misappropriation of public funds by Yari’s administration. In late September 2020, the committee released its report, which claimed that Yari embezzled over ₦107 billion from the state.
He was detained by the EFCC in February and April 2021 and interrogated in connection with approximately ₦300 billion he attempted to move from a corporate bank account.
While Yari lost a corruption case against the Independent Corrupt Practices Commission (ICPC) in January 2021, where the court approved the seizure of $669,248 and over ₦24.3 million from him, and another case in February 2022 where he was asked to forfeit 10 properties in Abuja, Kaduna, and Zamfara State, along with one in Maryland, United States, Yari continues to work as a ‘free man’ and even contested for the position of Senate President in the 9th Assembly.
Godswill Akpabio, Nigeria’s Senate President, the third-highest-ranking official in the country, and a former governor of the oil-rich Niger Delta Akwa Ibom, came under investigation by the EFCC and was arrested less than six months after he handed over power in 2015 for diverting over ₦100 billion from the state treasury.
Akpabio, who later became the Minister of Niger Delta Affairs after defecting to the All Progressives Congress (APC) in 2018, was arrested again by the commission in April 2021 but was released after being held for nearly two hours at EFCC headquarters.
While the lawyer, Leo Ekpenyong, who accused Akpabio of corruption, was later arraigned by the police in court for defamation, Akpabio’s political career re-emerged, and he became the Senate President after defeating Yari in June 2023.
Another member of the ruling party APC with unresolved corruption charges is Umaru Al-Makura, the former governor of Nasarawa State, who was arraigned over an alleged breach of trust and misappropriation of funds by the EFCC in 2022.
Premium Times reported that over 50 bank accounts controlled by Al-Makura and his wife, Mairo, were involved in a series of suspicious transactions, amounting to billions of naira, between 2011 and 2019 during his time as governor.
While Al-Makura lost his re-election bid into the Senate, his corruption case remains one of the many unresolved cases slowly being forgotten.
Orji Uzor Kalu:
On Thursday, December 5, 2019, a Federal High Court in Lagos sentenced Orji Kalu to 12 years in prison for fraud of ₦7.65 billion committed while he was governor of Abia State between 1999 and 2011.
While many welcomed the news of his conviction as an appropriate measure that would deter other governors from looting the state treasury, the Supreme Court of Nigeria on Friday, May 8, 2020, ordered his release after ruling that his trial was wrongly conducted.
Though Kalu spent nearly six months in prison, he resumed his duties as a Senator representing Abia North and attempted to run for the position of Senate President but was not nominated by his fellow APC party members…..CONTINUE READING
On May 24, 2022, a video surfaced online showing the former governor of Imo State, Rochas Okorocha, seeking support while a combined team of the EFCC and the police attempted to enter his house. Okorocha was being investigated for alleged fraud amounting to ₦2.9 billion during his time as Imo State governor between 2011 and 2019.
While the joint operatives eventually gained access to his house after seven hours, a Federal High Court in Abuja in February 2023, less than three weeks before the 2023 presidential election, discharged the ₦2.9 billion fraud charges preferred against him by the EFCC for contravening Section 105 (3) of the Administration of Criminal Justice Act (ACJA).
On March 17, 2022, just hours after Willie Obiano left office and lost immunity from prosecution, the former governor of Anambra State was arrested by the EFCC at the Murtala Muhammed International Airport in Lagos.
Obiano, placed under the commission’s watch list after Charles Soludo was elected as his successor, was detained and questioned for misappropriation of public funds amounting to ₦42 billion. However, since his release on March 23, 2023, the commission has provided little update on the case.
Another former Governor of Abia State, Theodore Orji, was arrested by operatives of the EFCC in August 2021 at the Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport, Abuja, alongside his son, Chinedu Orji, the immediate past speaker of the House of Assembly in Abia State.
Among other allegations, including the alleged mismanagement of ₦2 billion Ecological Fund and mismanagement of Sure-P Funds, the ex-governor, who represented Abia Central Senatorial zone between 2015 and 2023, was accused of diverting ₦500 million monthly for eight years to his personal account when he was overnor of Abia between 2007 and 2015, while over 100 bank accounts were traced to his son. However, after their release, the investigation remains one of the many unsolved EFCC cases concerning an ex-governor.
Fayose is one of Nigeria’s ex-governors whose travails with the EFCC dominated the media after he left office in 2018. Often regarded by many as a dramatic politician, Fayose, when he was invited to the commission’s office for questioning, arrived wearing a black T-shirt with the inscription “EFCC, I am here.”
Before his second stint in office, the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission obtained a court order to freeze four Zenith Bank accounts allegedly used by Fayose to launder money for his Ekiti governorship election in 2014.
While Justice Taiwo Taiwo of a Federal High Court in Ado-Ekiti had, in December 2016, ordered the EFCC to unfreeze the bank accounts, Fayose’s travails with the EFCC continued, and his account would be frozen again in April 2018 while he was a sitting governor. Although it has been five years since he left office, Fayose’s case has not been completed by the commission.
Ali Modu Sheriff:
Aside from being accused of being a sponsor of the Islamic sect Boko Haram by an Australian hostage negotiator Stephen Davies, Premium Times reported that in June 2015, the former governor of Borno State, Ali Modu Sheriff, surrendered himself to the operatives of the EFCC over an alleged fraud of misappropriated ₦300 billion that his administration received from the Federation Account between 2003 and 2011.
Both his terrorist involvement, including a 2010 intelligence report by a Nigerian security agency which claimed that Sheriff was personally involved in the recruitment, training, and dispatch of Boko Haram fighters, under the full cover of Idris Deby, the Chadian president, and his corruption charges remain unresolved as he decamped to APC from PDP in 2018.
Sullivan Chime, the former governor of Enugu State between 2007 and 2015, has an unsolved EFCC case.
Chime, who served as governor under the platform of the Peoples Democratic Party, was being investigated by the anti-corruption agency for his role in a ₦23 billion campaign funds scandal involving a former Petroleum Resources minister, Mrs. Dieziani Alison-Madueke, until he defected to the ruling party, APC, in 2017.
While the Enugu chapter of the APC suspended Chime in April 2023 for anti-party activities after the ex-governor endorsed Peter Mbah, who was declared the winner of the 2023 governorship election in Enugu, there has been no update on his corruption case…..CONTINUE READING