African viewpoint: Scramble for Nigeria's $15m 'bribe'

James Ibori (in white, second on the right) James Ibori (in white, second on the right) used to be a very powerful governor

In our series of viewpoints from African journalists, Sola Odunfa in Lagos wonders about the fate of $15m (£12m) deposited in the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) in 2007.

Somewhere in the vaults of the CBN a bag containing $15m has lain untouched for the past five years. It was taken there by an altruistic 47-year-old public servant who said he had been given the money as a bribe.

At the time of the deposit the story was incredible: The amount in Nigerian currency was far beyond the imagination of a majority of Nigeria's 150 million people; who was the Nigerian so mindlessly rich to dash away such money or who would reject it under any circumstance?

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Who was the Nigerian so mindlessly rich to dash away such money or who would reject it under any circumstance?”

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The depositor was indeed a Nigerian - and a Nigerian police officer to boot. He was Mallam Nuhu Ribadu, then head of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC).

When he took the cash to the CBN in 2007, he said that it was a bribe given to him by James Ibori, then governor of the oil-rich Delta state, to stop the investigation of allegations of monumental corruption against him. Of course, Ibori denied it.

Mr Ribadu was undaunted. At the end of investigations he slammed a charge of 170 counts of corruption at the Federal High Court on Ibori, who was now out of his gubernatorial chair. The charge included the alleged attempted bribery.

Ibori was not only a state governor when he committed the alleged crimes, he was also a powerful member of the ruling People's Democratic Party (PDP) and a financier of the presidential campaign of President Shehu Yar'Adua, now late. Which court in Nigeria would touch him?

The charge was struck out wholesale. Ibori walked tall from the court, cheered on by hundreds of party supporters and officials of the state government.

Dog fight

They danced too soon. Mr Ribadu had filed complaints with the Metropolitan Police in Britain and they were stalking Ibori.

Efforts were made by the Nigerian government to stop the investigations abroad, but in vain. Mr Ribadu had given London all the evidence needed to prosecute the case.

James Ibori Five months ago Ibori was convicted in the UK and sentenced to 13 years in prison.

Coincidentally Mr Ribadu fell out of favour with the government at about the same time, and he was dismissed from office. Now, remember that the $15m alleged bribe remained in the CBN. Ibori could not retrieve it because he had denied giving it.

The Metropolitan Police eventually caught up with him in Dubai, had him extradited to the UK and charged him with fraud and money laundering. Five months ago Ibori was convicted and sentenced to 13 years in prison.

Now, a dog fight has started in Nigeria to claim the $15m. The Nigerian government which shielded Ibori wants it. Delta State which said Ibori did not steal while serving as governor has staked a claim.

A faceless politician and a former adviser to former President Olusegun Obasanjo have joined in with a claim that they gave the money to Mr Ribadu for a different purpose.

Have they all no shame? Hail, Mallam Ribadu, wherever you may be now!


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  • rate this

    Comment number 28.

    Nuhu tried to do a good job, but he was also without sin. The only persons he tried to procecute were those that fell out with OBJ which is a fact. Also if he was so good, non-corrupt and patriotic, why did he accept a double promotion in rank of which he was not qualified for?. The $15m should be spent on charity projects in Delta state if the allegation is true that it came from Ibori

  • rate this

    Comment number 27.

    Goodness is the only investment that pays,this is not campaigning for Ribadu,with this story,he has been vindicated of any wrongs that made the then government to sack him from Efcc/police force unceremoniously,the present government suppose to render an apology to him and give him an award.How many people in his position can resist such an offer? $15m bribe.

  • rate this

    Comment number 26.

    Laughable - Mr Ribadu should be a national hero for his brave efforts. Africans wonder why we consider the continent a basket case. The Nigerian government & virtually all the politicians are as corrupt as its possible to be & nothing is ever done about it, & justice is tied to wealth & power. Nigerians should be shamed that the UK had to convict this crook? We should stop all aid to Nigeria.

  • rate this

    Comment number 25.

    The bribe should go to Economic & Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC).
    Nigeria would benefit from the stepped-up criminal investigation this would bring, and...
    Try to hire a hundred persons with the character of Mallam Nuhu Ribadu,
    presently Chairman of the Petroleum Revenue Task Force.

  • rate this

    Comment number 24.

    Nuhu Ribadu‘s action is an indication that there are still ‘good men’ in Nigeria , who do the right thing. Hopefully Nigerians will increasingly put these people in power. As for the money, my suggestion will be that It should be used to create an international organisation with the sole purpose of addressing corruption and mismanagement in Nigeria

  • rate this

    Comment number 23.

    I wish that colonial masters of Nigeria will start looking into Nigeria goverment it will help us fighty bribering and corruptions and it will also help Nigeria to move forward.
    Is not only Ibori, but all of them are invulved, And shame to Nigeria Federal High Court which can not get the truth.We thank Mr Ribadu, But we know that this is the way of campaign to him for the next president of Nigeria

  • rate this

    Comment number 22.

    As much as this story highlights the good deed done by one Nigerian government official who refused to be corrupt it still saddens me that one of the things Nigeria is known for is corruption. I know many would argue that the reason for this is biased and lopsided coverage by the international news media but I dare say that we haven't done much to help ourselves. I await the outcome of this drama.

  • rate this

    Comment number 21.

    I am surprosed that the author has to finish with "Hail, Mallam Ribadu, wherever you may be now!" Thirty seconds on Google finds where he is, for instance,

  • rate this

    Comment number 20.

    I hope that BBC prints more on good deeds of Mr. Ribadu and perhaps enough to motivate others in power to do good.

    I notice some Nigerians bashing BBC for no good reason. That is perhaps missing the point of good deed done by one Good Nigerian.

  • rate this

    Comment number 19.


    It's positive to see Mr Ribadu was an honest person when he deposited that money. There are not enough people like him sadly, all now coming out to make their claims. I shall no doubt have 'correspondence' from a few others landing in my spam folder.

  • rate this

    Comment number 18.

    "The Metropolitan Police... had him extradited to the UK and charged him with fraud and money laundering."

    Obviously, those crimes were committed in UK.
    Come on, BBC be fair, tell us the names of the UK bankers. Or are they, so often, the same/usual suspects highlighted in your news reports?

  • rate this

    Comment number 17.

    “The pot calls the cattle black.” Let us clean-up our own backyard before we start somebody else’s. The clean-up could only be done by changing our monetary/economic system by adhering to the eternal laws which governs the entire universe. These laws will expose our corruptness to us self as well as the consequences it will have for our neighbour. Google The World Monetary Order to Come.

  • rate this

    Comment number 16.

    Mr Odunfa,

    Shehu Yar'adua was never Nigeria's President! Umaru Musa Yar'adua however was, until his death in 2010.

    Get your Presidents right Sir..

  • rate this

    Comment number 15.

    I DEARLY WISH ALL AFRICA from the Mediterranean Shores to the Indian /Atlantic Ocean Shores could emulate this WONDERFUL 5 year-old gesture of an Altruistic NIGERIAN ! I bet he is or was a NON-RELIGIONIST ! Bravo ! It seems like even the very dark clouds of corruption do hide a SILVER NAIRA somewhere !!

  • rate this

    Comment number 14.

    Problem solved, I'm glad to say! I'll be taking delivery of this money following a most affable email from Mr Iwonta Konyu, senior executive at said bank, who only wanted all my personal details in exchange for looking after the loot for a while before he safely moved it to the bank's Swiss depository. I turned down his offer of a few mill for my troubles - I was only too glad to help!

  • rate this

    Comment number 13.

    @jericoa - Because other continents are busy reporting what corruption goes on in Africa. That way their own citizens remain blind of whats going on at home - unless of course political bouts leak MPs' inflated claims from time to time.

  • Comment number 12.

    All this user's posts have been removed.Why?

  • rate this

    Comment number 11.

    All governments are, by their nature, and of necessity, corrupt. The only variables are the levels of sophistication and the size of the benefit.

    It's no less corrupt for MPs to receive payments for 'non-executive directorships' when they are there to represent their electorate. Nobody stuffs £40,000 in an MPs pocket and expects nothing in return.

    If not cash, then it's plum jobs on retirement.

  • rate this

    Comment number 10.

    Because countries broadly speaking are.

  • rate this

    Comment number 9.

    why is Africa, broadly speaking, such a corrupt mess?


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