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10 big scandals of 2020

Despite the challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic on the Nigerian economy, the country witnessed scandals that attracted national attention.

Despite the challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic on the Nigerian economy, the country witnessed scandals that attracted national attention.

Most of the scandals involved government funds, or deception by politicians, public figures or heads of agencies to swindle the government or Nigerians.

Below are some of the scandals that occurred in the country this year.

NDDC management contracts

It is believed in some quarters that for a long time, the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) has been a cash cow for its management, the elite and their accomplices in that region.

Nigerians developed more interest in the activities of the commission, especially concerning financial mismanagement, when President Muhammadu Buhari ordered a “forensic audit” there in October 2019.

Following the directive, the House of Representatives and Senate Committees on the NDDC began investigation into allegations of contract inflation and outright financial recklessness in the commission.

At the centre of the controversy was the Professor Daniel Pondei-led NDDC’s Interim Management Committee (IMC).

The IMC was accused of misappropriating over N81billion in the first seven months of its existence.

In the course of investigation, however, the management of the committee accused the chairman of the House of Representatives Committee on the NDDC, Olubunmi Tunji-Ojo, of receiving and executing contracts for the commission.

He promptly denied the allegation.

Following pressures from the NDDC, Tunji-Ojo stepped aside and his deputy, Thomas Eremienyo, took charge of the probe.

When he appeared before the House committee, the Minister of Niger Delta Affairs, Goodwill Akpabio, also alleged that many of the lawmakers had benefitted from NDDC contracts.

The House, however, challenged Akpabio to name the lawmakers who benefitted from NDDC contracts.

The Speaker and other members further threatened to take legal action if the minister failed to disclose the names.

In another twist, the Rivers State Governor Nyesom Wike thwarted an attempt by the police in Rivers State to arrest the former chairman of the IMC of the NDDC, Joy Nunieh, who was to testify against Akpabio before the committee.

The drama came to a head when Professor Pondei suddenly fainted during the probe on July 20.

The Senate committee also investigated the commission over an alleged N40billion “illegal payments.”

But despite the probe, nobody has been indicted, while the NDDC controversially got another caretaker management.

COVID-19 palliatives

The aftermath of the #EndSARS protest across the country culminated in attacks on government warehouses in various states of the federation, where COVID-19 palliatives were suspected to have been stored.

Subsequently, many government warehouses were broken into and foodstuffs and other things were carted away.

Politicians and wealthy people also became victims as their houses were attacked and valuables taken away by hoodlums who hijacked the protest.

This action exposed one of the biggest scandals in Nigeria in 2020 as governors and other government officials, including Minister of Humanitarian Affairs Sadiya Umar Farouq, had always insisted that palliatives were provided to cushion the effect of COVID-19 on poor Nigerians.

Abacha loot and allegation against Governor Bagudu

There was an allegation that Governor Abubakar Bagudu of Kebbi State had brokered a deal for the repatriation of $100million that former military head of state, the late General Sani Abacha allegedly looted and kept in the United States of America.

That was reportedly after a series of cases in US courts.

Nigerians faulted the alleged plan to transfer the money to Kebbi State, saying it was another ploy to re-loot the fund.

The issue became a big scandal after the US Department of Justice alleged that Bagudu was involved in corruption activities with Abacha.

According to the US in their report, “A 17-year-old agreement entitles Bagudu to the funds and prevents Nigeria from assisting the US.

This case illustrates how complex and contentious repatriating stolen assets to Nigeria can be. Instead of welcoming US efforts, Nigeria’s lawyers appear to be supporting the interests of one of the country’s most powerful families.’’

It is believed that the Federal Government of Nigeria has so far repatriated more than $2billion from different countries.

This scandal raised eyebrows and generated much heat and accusations against the Buhari government.

The Mambilla hydropower project

When Minister of Power, Sale Mamman, assumed office, he alleged that the site for the Mambilla hydropower project, conceived over 30 years ago, was yet to be cleared, let alone taken off.

He said the Federal Government was in a legal tussle with some Chinese companies regarding agreements on the contract.

Nigerians were disappointed at the revelation of the minister. According to Mamman, despite the importance of the project, it was even included in the 2021 budget.

But the Minister of Finance, Budget and National Planning, Zainab Ahmed, blamed the Ministry of Power for the non-inclusion of the project in the budget, saying it was not one of its proposed projects for 2021.

Abdulrasheed Maina’s case

The escape of a former chairman of the Nigeria Pension Reform Taskforce Team, Abdulrasheed Maina and his subsequent repatriation from Niger republic was another scandal in 2020.

Maina is standing trial on corruption and other issues.

His failure to appear in court led to the arrest and subsequent remand of his surety, Senator Ali Ndume at the Kuje Correctional Facility for some days.

Maina was later traced to Niger Republic, where he lived as a fugitive and was repatriated to continue his case.

Like Professor Pondei of the NDDC, Maina fainted in court when his trial resumed.

The Ibrahim Magu

The former acting chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), Ibrahim Magu, was accused of involvement in corrupt practices. It was a scandal that surprised many Nigerians.

Allegations against Magu started in 2010 when the Police Service Commission (PSC) accused him of withholding EFCC files, sabotage, unauthorised removal of files and other acts that are contrary to the law.

One of the allegations was that he forced the Federal Capital Development Administration (FCDA) to award a contract to a company belonging to the person who furnished his residence.

After other allegations against him, President Muhammadu Buhari ordered his immediate suspension.

He also approved the appointment of Mohammed Umar to replace him.

Subsequently, an investigation into the allegations was launched and the panel, headed by Justice Ayo Salami (retd), indicted the former EFCC boss.

Emir Sanusi II and Governor Ganduje

Although the power to appoint and remove traditional rulers is vested in state governors, the removal of Sanusi Lamido Sanusi II as the Emir of Kano appeared scandalous because many believed it was as a result of the political tussle between him and Governor Abdullahi Umar Ganduje.

Before his removal on the allegation of insubordination and involvement in politics, the Kano Emirate was split into five domains.

He was later banished to Awe in Nassarawa State but later allowed to move to Lagos.

Femi Fani-Kayode and Daily Trust correspondent

The encounter between a Daily Trust correspondent in Cross River State, Eyo Charles, and former minister of aviation, Femi Fani-Kayode, was a scandal.

Charles had asked who was bankrolling the former minister, who was on a nationwide tour. The question annoyed Kayode and he threatened to deal with the correspondent after raining abuses on him.

The incident went viral on social media and other channels of communication, attracting ourage.

Controversy over Gana’s killing

The reactions of Governor Samuel Ortom of Benue State and Senator Gabriel Suswam, as well as some politicians in the state to the killing of then most wanted criminal, Terwase Akwase, alias Gana by the military, brought up pertinent questions.

Gana was reportedly killed by the military on his way to Makurdi, the state capital for an amnesty offered by the state government.

He was alleged to have enjoyed the support of prominent politicians in the state.

Soldiers allegedly extorting money from passengers in Borno

In January, Governor Babagana Zulum of Borno State alleged that he caught some soldiers and policemen collecting N1,000 from passengers who didn’t have national identity cards at a checkpoint near Maiduguri, the state capital.

He was said to be on his way to Jakana, a village 45 kilometres from Maiduguri, which was attacked by Boko Haram insurgents.

The governor said he met thousands of stranded commuters allegedly being extorted by security operatives at Jimtilo, a village in the outskirts of Maiduguri along the Damaturu-Kano road.

“This is unacceptable. How can you subject people to this kind of torture in the name of national identity cards?

“You are here collecting N500 and N1,000 from poor travellers. This is not right,” the governor had alleged.

“You must know that the government and people of Borno State are behind you and your men, but you must call your soldiers to order, you must check their excesses,” Zulum told the theatre commander on phone.

The video of the encounter went viral, but the military denied the extortion allegation.