SOME POLITICIANS who have declared their intention to contest the 2023 presidential election are linked to corruption cases or allegations, checks by The ICIR have shown.
Corruption cases tied to the presidential hopefuls include: asset declaration and money laundering charges that were dismissed in court, allegations of financial misappropriation that are being investigated by relevant agencies, and corruption-related petitions that are yet to be probed.
The politicians that have so far declared their intention to run for president in 2023 include: a former Senate President Pius Anyim, a former Governor of Lagos State Bola Tinubu, another former Senate President and also former Governor of Kwara State Bukola Saraki, Ebonyi State Governor Dave Umahi, a former Imo State Governor Rochas Okorocha and a former Abia State Governor and current Senate Chief Whip Orji Uzor Kalu.
Anyim declared his interest to contest the presidential election at a consultative meeting with South-East stakeholders in Enugu on January 6.
Anyim has not been charged to court but, on October 24, 2021, the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) interrogated him over a case of alleged corruption and diversion of public funds.
There were reports that the allegations over which the EFCC investigated Anyim were linked to the corruption and money laundering case involving a former Aviation Minister Stella Oduah.
It was reported that rehabilitation funds amounting to N780 million were allegedly traced to a company in which Anyim has interest.
Anyim was in the custody of the EFCC for two days – from October 24 to October 26.
After his release, Anyim issued a statement to “put the records straight,” explaining that he went to the EFCC on his own volition to clarify issues after he got information that some persons invited by the anti-graft agency in connection with some matters that were being investigated mentioned his (Anyim’s) name in a statement.
He said some media reports “deliberately distorted the facts just to call his integrity to question.”
Anyim added that he remained steadfast in his commitment to join hands with men and women of goodwill to move Nigeria forward, “notwithstanding the blackmail, falsehood, misinformation and misrepresentation that some opportunists will seek to make out of such episodes like his recent encounter with the EFCC.”
Tinubu declared his intention to contest the election on January 10 when he visited President Muhammadu Buhari at the Presidential Villa. He informed Buhari that becoming Nigeria’s president was his lifelong ambition.
The Federal Government in 2007 arraigned Tinubu before the Code of Conduct Tribunal (CCT) for allegedly operating foreign accounts illegally while he was governor of Lagos State between 1999 and 2007.
Tinubu denied the charges.
On his second appearance before the tribunal, the panel of judges dismissed the case, ruling that there was no significant basis to prosecute Tinubu as the charges were defective and shoddy.
The tribunal held that there was no proof of evidence attached to the charge and as a result, it did not disclose a prima facie case.
But, in March 2016, the tribunal admitted error in discharging Tinubu.
The CCT chairman Danladi Umar admitted the error during Saraki’s trial for alleged false declaration of assets.
Umar noted that Section 3(b) of the Code of Conduct Bureau Act which required a defendant to be invited for confirmation or denial of discrepancies in the Assets Declaration Form had been overtaken by the provision of Section 3(e) of the 1999 Constitution, and as such, should not determine whether the tribunal should assume jurisdiction over a case or not.
The CCT chairman said, “On the discharge of the former Lagos State governor by the tribunal some years ago simply because the CCB failed to fulfill the condition precedent, we have since realised that we acted in error in discharging Mr. Tinubu on that ground and we have since departed from that error.”
“In essence, provision of Section 3(a) of the third schedule of the 1999 Constitution which has no provision for fulfillment of certain conditions precedent before the CCB can act, is now the guiding force for the tribunal,” he added.
In another development, a former Managing Director of Alpha Beta Consulting Dapo Apara had, in 2018, written a petition to the EFCC accusing the firm (Alpha Beta) of N100 billion tax fraud.
Alpha Beta is a tax consulting firm that has exclusive rights to monitor and generate revenue on behalf of the Lagos State government.
In a suit filed through his counsel Ebun-Olu Adegboruwa, a Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN), Apara alleged that Tinubu controls Alpha Beta.
He further alleged that Tinubu instigated his removal as MD for investigating Alpha Beta’s finances.
The suit is still pending in court.
On the of the 2019 presidential election, bullion vans conveying cash were seen driving into Tinubu’s Lagos residence.
Civil society organisations (CSOs) petitioned the EFCC to demand an investigation into the source of the money conveyed in the bullion vans.
Saraki announced his intention to contest the presidential election in a post on his official Facebook page on January 26.
Saraki has been linked to several corruption allegations, starting from his time as a director of Société Générale Bank Nigeria (SGBN) Ltd.
The EFCC accused directors of the bank of mismanaging investors’ funds.
In July 2021, the EFCC confirmed that Saraki was invited for questioning over allegations of corruption and money laundering.
Saraki later dragged the EFCC before an Abuja Federal High Court to query the legality of allowing the anti-graft agency to investigate him over allegations he said were part of the charge upon which he was previously docked before the Code of Conduct Tribunal (CCT).
Justice Anwuli Chikere of the Abuja Federal High Court, presiding over the fundamental right enforcement suit filed by Saraki against the EFCC in November 2021, stood down from the case and returned the case file to the chief judge for re-assignment to another judge.
In 2015, the Code of Conduct Bureau (CCB) filed a 13-count charge against Saraki for false declaration of assets.
The CCB alleged that Saraki failed to declare all his assets and made an ‘anticipatory asset declaration’ while governor of Kwara State in 2003.
It is believed that the anticipatory asset declaration was done with the intention to loot in the future.
Saraki was arraigned over the false asset declaration charges at the Code of Conduct Tribunal in Abuja in September 2015.
Saraki denied the charges.
The Supreme Court later acquitted Saraki of the false asset declaration charges in July 2018.
The EFCC also filed charges against Saraki before a Lagos Federal High Court, alleging that he (Saraki) spent N1.09 billion, allegedly stolen from the coffers of Kwara State, to purchase two houses in Lagos while he was the state governor.
The EFCC sought the final forfeiture of the houses located at 17 and 17A MacDonald Road, Ikoyi, but in March 2021, the Lagos Federal High Court presided by Justice Mohammed Liman dismissed the anti-graft agency’s application for final forfeiture of the property.
Also, Saraki was invited by the Nigerian Police for questioning when, on April 5, 2018, armed robbers attacked five commercial banks in Offa, a town in Kwara State.
About 30 persons, including Police officers, were killed in the attack.
The Ebonyi State governor declared his intention to run for president after meeting Buhari at the Presidential Villa on January 11.
Umahi has not been charged for corruption in court but in January 2021, some of his former aides, under the aegis of G-64 Former Coordinators’ Forum of Ebonyi State, petitioned the EFCC over alleged misappropriation of statutory allocations totalling over N6.7 billion belonging to local councils by Umahi’s government.
In the petition signed by their lawyer Amos Ogbonnaya, the former aides also claimed that they were paid the sum of N101,000 monthly instead of the statutory N400,000.
They alleged that they were compelled to sign off N672 million in 2017 from the account of the local councils to the state government in exchange for three lock-up shops at the Margaret Umahi International Market, Abakaliki.
They urged the EFCC to investigate the allegations.
Okorocha, the senator representing Imo West, declared his presidential ambition in a letter read at plenary by Senate President Ahmed Lawan on January 26.
In April 2021, the EFCC detained Okorocha for two days after he was invited for questioning over issues bordering on alleged corruption.
The Imo State government had accused Okorocha of diversion of public funds and it was alleged that he awarded 12 contracts worth N20 billion in violation of the Public Procurement Act.
Also a committee set up by the state government reportedly uncovered N112.8 billion ‘dubious debts’ which various banks owed the state during Okorocha’s tenure.
In August 2021, an Abuja Federal High Court refused to grant an order of interim injunction sought by Okorocha to stop the EFCC and the Imo State government from confiscating his assets in various parts of the country.
Okorocha had, in the application for an order of interim injunction, complained that his properties had been marked in several states for confiscation.
The Whitepaper Implementation Committee on Lands and other Related Matters set up by Imo State governor Hope Uzodinma uncovered several government properties converted to personal use by Okorocha and his family members.
The Imo State government had also seized the Eastern Palm University, Ogboko, from Okorocha and renamed it the Kingsley Ozumba Mbadiwe University, Ogboko, Imo State.
Okorocha had claimed ownership of the university but the state government insisted it was built with public funds.
The Royal Palm Estate in Owerri, a property linked to Okorocha’s wife, was in February 2021, sealed by the Imo State government.
Kalu declared his presidential ambition on January 11, saying he was ready to contest the APC ticket with Tinubu if the party zoned it to the South.
On December 5, 2019, Justice Mohammed Idris of a Lagos Federal High Court sentenced Kalu to 12 years imprisonment after convicting him on a 39-count charge filed by the EFCC.
He was convicted alongside his firm, Slok Nigeria Limited, and Ude Udeogu, a former director of finance in the Abia State government.
The judge ruled that Kalu and the others were guilty of misappropriating funds totalling about N7.1 billion from the coffers of the Abia State government between 1999 to 2007.
Kalu was already serving his prison sentence when he was released from Kuje Correctional Centre, Abuja, on June 2, 2020, following an order of the Supreme Court.
Although the Supreme Court ordered a retrial of Kalu’s case, in September 2021, an Abuja Federal High Court barred the EFCC from retrying the Senate chief whip.
Justice Inyang Ekwo of the Abuja Federal High Court held that the Supreme Court did not specifically order that Kalu should be retried.
The EFCC said it would appeal against the Abuja Federal High Court ruling.