#PanamaPapers: What this means for Nigeria, and Buhari’s fight against corruption


The ‘Panama Papers‘ consists of 11.5 million confidential files revealing how billions of dollars are hidden offshore by politicians and notable figures from around the world. Leaked from one of the world’s biggest law firm, Mossack Fonseca, the Panama Papers has been tagged the biggest leak in history with its 2.6 terabytes worth of data.

These files were received by a German newspaper (Süddeutsche Zeitung) from an unknown source and it was then shared with the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ). The ICIJ was responsible for sharing the leaked files to other media houses around the world. The Panama Papers reveal how Mossack Fonseca has aided its clients in money laundering and tax evasion.

Here are the Nigerian(s) involved in the #panamapapers scandal:

James Ibori

The former governor of Niger Delta who pleaded guilty to money laundering and fraud charges in 2012 has been serving a 13-year jail term in the United Kingdom. However, as of now, he’s still the only Nigerian that has been featured on the ICIJ website as part of the Panama Papers scandal. From his bio on the ICIJ website, Ibori can be termed as a serial “embezzler.”

The website made attributions to Ibori’s trial three years ago saying “Ibori admitted using his position as governor to corruptly obtain and divert up to $75 million out of Nigeria through a network of offshore companies, although authorities alleged that the total amount he embezzled may have exceeded $250 million.”

Bukola and Toyin Saraki

According to Premium Times, The Senate President, Bukola Saraki, and his wife Toyin may be involved in the scandal as well. The paper has alleged that the Sarakis have at least 4 undeclared assets in “secret offshore territories.” While Saraki has denied owning undeclared properties, reportedly saying he has “declared his assets properly in accordance with the relevant legislation,” and that the charges against him “are both unfounded and politically motivated,” his family name may still be tainted as his brother, Laolu Saraki is linked to one of the names on the list.

Laolu Saraki was listed in the Panama Papers as a business associate of Kojo Annan, the son of the United Nations Secretary General, Kofi Annan, whose name is very prominent on the list.

What does this mean for Nigeria and Buhari’s fight against corruption?

The involvement of Nigerians in this list has only reinforced what a common feature in the country which is corruption and a lack of accountability. Since independence, those appointed to positions of leadership – presidents, governors, lawmakers, even councillors, have taken pleasure in robbing the country of its resources without being held responsible for their actions. Although, one would have expected Sani Abacha’s name, he seems to have a worthy successor in James Ibori, who would have definitely gone scot-free without the intervention of the UK law enforcement agencies. Will Nigeria ever be free of corruption?

President Buhari, since he assumed office, has launched a full blown war against corruption, however, without further persecution, the people that were initially booed as being corrupt are now going about their business untainted by it.

Nigerians try to hold their leaders accountable but fail, woefully, because the country is used to theft and corruption and the majority, are just, at best apathetic. Not much can be done given this attitude. If the war against corruption could be authentic, complete with scapegoating and appropriate punishment, perhaps, Nigerians will not be so disillusioned and the government dismissive of those who actually make their displeasure known.

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