Tinubu’s ministerial nominee Atiku Bagudu, helped Abacha steal Nigeria’s billions

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President Bola Tinubu has nominated as minister, Atiku Bagudu, the man who helped late dictator Sani Abacha steal and launder billions of dollars belonging to Nigeria.

Mr Bagudu, 61, was a federal lawmaker before he served as governor of northwestern Kebbi State for eight years. He is a household name in the All Progressive Congress (APC) and a political ally of the president.

Both men were not always allies. In fact, at the time Mr Bagudu was helping Mr Abacha steal Nigeria dry, Mr Tinubu was financing some political and civil society actors demanding the dictator’s exit. Mr Tinubu had to go into exile due to fears the dictator wanted to kill or imprison him.

However, the formation of the APC in 2013 and its eventual electoral success in the 2015 general elections brought both men together, a relationship that was solidified when Mr Tinubu sought the APC presidential ticket last year.

President Bola Tinubu
President Bola Tinubu

On Wednesday, Mr Tinubu sent the name of Mr Bagudu and 18 others to the Senate for confirmation as ministers.

Mr Bagudu had since 2003 admitted to financial irregularities when he agreed to return about $163 million to Nigeria to avoid extradition to Jersey from the US.

Since getting into the corridors of power in 2011 as a senator, Mr Bagudu has remained active in politics. Last year, he played a major role in the APC’s selection of Mr Tinubu as its presidential candidate for the 2023 presidential elections. Mr Bagudu was also a key player in Mr Tinubu’s presidential campaign council.

While Messrs Tinubu and Bagudu’s political romance continues, the Nigerian government is still trying to recover some of the insane amounts of money that Mr Abacha stole from Nigeria, most with the connivance of Mr Bagudu.

The systematic plunder of Nigeria by the Abacha family with the help of Mr Bagudu is reckoned to be one of the worst cases of kleptocracy and offshore shenanigans in the world.

It was reported that between 1998, when Mr Abacha suddenly died, and 2020, 3.6 billion U.S. dollars have been recovered from the Abacha family and Mr Bagudu, now a minister-designate.

The money-laundering operations Mr Bagudu ran on behalf of Mr Abacha are well-documented in suits filed in the United States and the Bailiwick of Jersey, a British Crown dependency in the Channel Islands.

The $23.5 million Abacha loot recovered last year by the UK’s National Crime Agency (NCA) was forfeited by Mohammed Abacha and Mr Bagudu’s offshore company Mecosta Securities Inc.

Former Head of State, Sani Abacha
Former Head of State, Sani Abacha

While he was serving as governor of Kebbi state, the United States and Jersey authorities repatriated 308 million U.S. dollars stolen and laundered by Mr Bagudu, PREMIUM TIMES reported.

Similarly, the 163 million U.S. dollars recovered from Jersey in 2003 directly involved Mr Bagudu, who then negotiated a deal with the US and Jersey to return the funds to Nigeria in exchange for Jersey’s withdrawal of an extradition request and his free return to Nigeria.

He spent six months in American federal prison in Houston while awaiting extradition to Jersey. The deal to return the $163 million was to avoid that extradition.

READ ALSO: UPDATED: Tinubu forwards fresh list of 19 ministerial nominees to Senate, Oyetola, Bagudu, Matawalle, Lalong on list (FULL LIST)

It was gathered that Mr Bagudu reached a settlement with the Olusegun Obasanjo administration in 2003 to drop all outstanding civil and criminal claims against him, according to US court filings.

Mr Bagudu was involved with the offshore front companies and bank accounts – from the British Virgin Islands to Ireland, Switzerland, England, Guernsey, and Jersey – used to steal and launder billions of dollars by the Abacha regime. He was either a director, signatory on accounts or prime beneficiary of such companies, according to US court documents and incorporation filings from the Pandora Papers leaks.

(Premium Times)


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