In a controversial move, President Bola Tinubu has nominated Atiku Bagudu, a man allegedly linked to the financial crimes of late dictator Sani Abacha, for a ministerial position.
Bagudu, 61, was once a federal lawmaker and served as the governor of northwestern Kebbi State for eight years. He is a prominent figure within the All Progressive Congress (APC) and a political associate of the president.
Historically, Bagudu and Tinubu were not allies. During Abacha’s dictatorship, when Bagudu was allegedly implicated in assisting Abacha in financial misconduct, Tinubu was backing political and civil society actors demanding the dictator’s removal.
However, the creation of the APC in 2013 brought Bagudu and Tinubu together, a relationship further solidified during Tinubu’s presidential campaign.
President Tinubu on Wednesday sent the name of Bagudu and 18 others to the Senate for confirmation as ministers.
According to Premium Times, 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, Bagudu has remained active in politics.
Last year, he played a major role in the APC’s selection of Tinubu as its presidential candidate for the 2023 presidential elections. Bagudu was also a key player in 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 Abacha stole from Nigeria, most with the connivance of Bagudu.
The systematic plunder of Nigeria by the Abacha family with the help of Bagudu is reckoned to be one of the worst cases of kleptocracy and offshore shenanigans in the world.
Premium Times reported that between 1998, when Abacha suddenly died, and 2020, 3.6 billion U.S. dollars have been recovered from the Abacha family and Bagudu, now a minister-designate.
The money-laundering operations Mr Bagudu ran on behalf of 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 Bagudu’s offshore company Mecosta Securities Inc.
The platform further stated that 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 Bagudu.
Similarly, the 163 million U.S. dollars recovered from Jersey in 2003 reportedly involved Bagudu, who then negotiated a deal with the U.S. 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 an American federal prison in Houston while awaiting extradition to Jersey. The deal to return the $163 million was to avoid that extradition.
It was gathered that 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 seen by PREMIUM TIMES.
Bagudu was allegedly 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.