19 April 2017

Nigeria: State Suspends Top Officials Over Missing Humanitarian Funds

Photo: Premium Times
Secretary to Government of the Federation, Babachir Lawal.

Nigeria's head of national intelligence and a senior civil servant have been implicated in a corruption scandal involving the misuse of development money. The funds were meant to help people hit by Boko Haram violence.

Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari suspended two top government officials on Wednesday over corruption allegations involving the misuse of humanitarian funds.

Buhari has ordered an investigation into both the country's spy chief and one of the country's most senior civil servants.

As secretary to the government, David Babachir Lawal was responsible for awarding contracts related to the Presidential Initiative on the North East (PINE), which helps rehabilitate areas of Nigeria ravaged by the Boko Haram insurgency.

Now, Lawal is being probed over allegations that he gave the contracts worth tens of millions of dollars to companies in which he had interests. He has denied the charges, though he has refused a summons by the Senate to explain himself.

Widespread corruption

The funds, totaling some $43 million (about 40 million euros), were found stashed in a private apartment in an upscale district of Lagos and were claimed by the National Intelligence Agency (NIA). The find prompted Buhari to also suspend NIA chief Ayo Oke.

A committee headed by Vice President Yemi Osinbajo now has 14 days to conduct an investigation into both men and present its findings to the president.

According to Transparency International, Nigeria is one of the most corrupt countries in the world. Buhari was elected in 2015 on a platform of stamping out the country's endemic graft. While his administration's aggressive campaign to recoup public funds has had some degree of success, critics argue that it unfairly targets opposition politicians.

es/cmk (AFP, Reuters)

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