African viewpoint: Scramble for Nigeria's $15m 'bribe'

James Ibori (in white, second on the right) James Ibori (in white, second on the right) used to be a very powerful governor

In our series of viewpoints from African journalists, Sola Odunfa in Lagos wonders about the fate of $15m (£12m) deposited in the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) in 2007.

Somewhere in the vaults of the CBN a bag containing $15m has lain untouched for the past five years. It was taken there by an altruistic 47-year-old public servant who said he had been given the money as a bribe.

At the time of the deposit the story was incredible: The amount in Nigerian currency was far beyond the imagination of a majority of Nigeria's 150 million people; who was the Nigerian so mindlessly rich to dash away such money or who would reject it under any circumstance?

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Who was the Nigerian so mindlessly rich to dash away such money or who would reject it under any circumstance?”

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The depositor was indeed a Nigerian - and a Nigerian police officer to boot. He was Mallam Nuhu Ribadu, then head of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC).

When he took the cash to the CBN in 2007, he said that it was a bribe given to him by James Ibori, then governor of the oil-rich Delta state, to stop the investigation of allegations of monumental corruption against him. Of course, Ibori denied it.

Mr Ribadu was undaunted. At the end of investigations he slammed a charge of 170 counts of corruption at the Federal High Court on Ibori, who was now out of his gubernatorial chair. The charge included the alleged attempted bribery.

Ibori was not only a state governor when he committed the alleged crimes, he was also a powerful member of the ruling People's Democratic Party (PDP) and a financier of the presidential campaign of President Shehu Yar'Adua, now late. Which court in Nigeria would touch him?

The charge was struck out wholesale. Ibori walked tall from the court, cheered on by hundreds of party supporters and officials of the state government.

Dog fight

They danced too soon. Mr Ribadu had filed complaints with the Metropolitan Police in Britain and they were stalking Ibori.

Efforts were made by the Nigerian government to stop the investigations abroad, but in vain. Mr Ribadu had given London all the evidence needed to prosecute the case.

James Ibori Five months ago Ibori was convicted in the UK and sentenced to 13 years in prison.

Coincidentally Mr Ribadu fell out of favour with the government at about the same time, and he was dismissed from office. Now, remember that the $15m alleged bribe remained in the CBN. Ibori could not retrieve it because he had denied giving it.

The Metropolitan Police eventually caught up with him in Dubai, had him extradited to the UK and charged him with fraud and money laundering. Five months ago Ibori was convicted and sentenced to 13 years in prison.

Now, a dog fight has started in Nigeria to claim the $15m. The Nigerian government which shielded Ibori wants it. Delta State which said Ibori did not steal while serving as governor has staked a claim.

A faceless politician and a former adviser to former President Olusegun Obasanjo have joined in with a claim that they gave the money to Mr Ribadu for a different purpose.

Have they all no shame? Hail, Mallam Ribadu, wherever you may be now!


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  • rate this

    Comment number 28.

    Nuhu tried to do a good job, but he was also without sin. The only persons he tried to procecute were those that fell out with OBJ which is a fact. Also if he was so good, non-corrupt and patriotic, why did he accept a double promotion in rank of which he was not qualified for?. The $15m should be spent on charity projects in Delta state if the allegation is true that it came from Ibori

  • rate this

    Comment number 27.

    Goodness is the only investment that pays,this is not campaigning for Ribadu,with this story,he has been vindicated of any wrongs that made the then government to sack him from Efcc/police force unceremoniously,the present government suppose to render an apology to him and give him an award.How many people in his position can resist such an offer? $15m bribe.

  • rate this

    Comment number 26.

    Laughable - Mr Ribadu should be a national hero for his brave efforts. Africans wonder why we consider the continent a basket case. The Nigerian government & virtually all the politicians are as corrupt as its possible to be & nothing is ever done about it, & justice is tied to wealth & power. Nigerians should be shamed that the UK had to convict this crook? We should stop all aid to Nigeria.

  • rate this

    Comment number 25.

    The bribe should go to Economic & Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC).
    Nigeria would benefit from the stepped-up criminal investigation this would bring, and...
    Try to hire a hundred persons with the character of Mallam Nuhu Ribadu,
    presently Chairman of the Petroleum Revenue Task Force.

  • rate this

    Comment number 24.

    Nuhu Ribadu‘s action is an indication that there are still ‘good men’ in Nigeria , who do the right thing. Hopefully Nigerians will increasingly put these people in power. As for the money, my suggestion will be that It should be used to create an international organisation with the sole purpose of addressing corruption and mismanagement in Nigeria


Comments 5 of 28


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