Graft Allegations Dog Nigeria’s Main Presidential Hopefuls

  • Bola Tinubu and Atiku Abubakar have both been accused of corruption by Bloomberg

The fight against corruption has been a top campaign issue in Nigeria’s last two presidential
elections, but the history of graft allegations surrounding the two main candidates means neither is
likely to raise it in the run-up to February’s vote.

Front-runner Bola Tinubu, who secured the ruling party’s nomination earlier this month, was
being investigated by the country’s anti-corruption agency as recently as last June. Three decades ago he fought a lawsuit in which the US government accused him of laundering the proceeds of heroin trafficking and eventually reached a settlement.

Atiku Abubakar, his chief rival, brought tens of millions of dollars of “suspect funds” into the US when he was Nigeria’s vice president in the 2000s, according to a US Senate report, and was implicated in a bribery case that resulted in the imprisonment of an American congressman.
Neither episode resulted in charges against Abubakar.

Spokesmen for Tinubu and Abubakar didn’t respond to requests for comment.
The next president will face a daunting challenge to turn around Africa’s largest economy. Falling
oil production threatens Nigeria’s place as the continent’s biggest crude producer, inflation is
soaring and more than half of the working-age population are either unemployed or

READ MORE – Chicago University Speaks On Tinubu’s Studentship

The race will see the two wealthy septuagenarians mobilize impressive political machines built
over more than 30 years pursuing power in Africa’s most-populous country. Voters in Nigeria are
often offered cash, food or clothing to persuade them to cast their ballots for particular

On the eve of the last election in 2019, two armored bank vans were photographed driving into
Tinubu’s home. “If I have money to spend, if I like, I give it to the people for free of charge as long
as it’s not to buy votes,” he told reporters when asked what the vehicles were transporting.

Tinubu and Abubakar have cultivated deep systems of political patronage, according to Hoffmann.
Both men excel at “engineering and expanding political networks through co-optation, through
channeling and redistributing money and positions and favors,” she said.

Tinubu, 70, who lives in Lagos’s wealthiest neighborhood, says he made his fortune before going
into politics by investing well and working as an accountant for companies including Deloitte LLP.
Abubakar, 75, who splits his time between Nigeria and Dubai, spent two decades working for the
government’s customs department and co-founded a large logistics and oil services firm that has
operated concessions at Nigerian ports.

As of last June, the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission had an open investigation into
Tinubu, the agency’s chairman, Abdulrasheed Bawa, told ThisDay newspaper at the time, without
specifying what it was scrutinizing. An EFCC spokesman didn’t respond to questions about
whether the probe is still active.

Tinubu is also accused in an ongoing Nigerian high court case of secretly controlling the company
that handles Lagos state taxes and is entitled to take a 10% cut of what it collects. It was awarded
the contract while Tinubu was governor.

A spokesman for Tinubu, who has not participated in the talks, told Bloomberg in March that the
allegations are “unsubstantiated.”

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