Nigeria emerged relatively unscathed from the federal and state elections that were held in March 2015. Fears that the elections would be marred by violence proved unfounded and the nation witnessed the ouster of an incumbent president through the ballot box for the first time.
Since the results of the federal elections were announced, there has been a spike in enforcement activities relating to alleged corruption, misfeasance in public office and capital markets and related infringements. Most of the action relates to proceedings and investigations that were previously ongoing, but some investigations have presumably been reinvigorated by the election results.
On April 29 Mike Igbinedion, the brother of a former governor of Edo State, was convicted of laundering N25 billion of state government money and sentenced to six years' imprisonment. Also convicted was a former aide to the governor, who received a sentence of two years' imprisonment on each of the 20 counts brought against him. Interestingly, the former governor of Edo State, Lucky Igbinedion, was charged after he left office in 2007 with multiple counts of embezzlement of state money. He entered into a deal with the prosecution that saw the withdrawal of all embezzlement charges against him, and their substitution with a single charge that he failed to make full disclosure of his assets to the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) following his arrest – a charge punishable by a maximum term of five years' imprisonment. Following a guilty plea in 2008, he was sentenced to six months in prison, with an option to pay a fine of N3.5 million (approximately $29,000 at the time). It was reported that he paid the fine on the spot and left a free man.
On May 4 a federal high court ordered that Ehidiamhem Okoyomon, the former chief executive of the Nigerian Security Minting & Printing Company, be extradited to the United Kingdom to face charges that he received bribes from UK banknote company Securency, which were paid into a UK bank account. At the time of the alleged offence, Securency was partly owned by Australia's Central Bank. The bribes were allegedly paid in connection with the contract awarded to Securency by the Nigerian Mint for the supply of polymer bank notes. According to local media reports in 2013, Charles Soludo, the governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria when the contract was awarded, was also arrested by the EFCC in connection with these bribery allegations. However, following the extradition order against Okoyomon, the chairman of the EFCC stated at a press conference on May 22 that it had discovered no impropriety on the part of Soludo and no charges would be levied against him. The only proceedings in Nigeria relating to the bribery allegations have thus been the extradition proceedings against Okoyomon. He has reportedly appealed the high court's decision and the extradition has not taken place.
Also on May 4 the trial of Femi Fani-Kayode – a minister during the second term of former President Olusegun Obasanjo – inched closer to a conclusion when a Federal High Court reserved its judgment until June 18. The trial has been ongoing since 2008. In the period since he left office, Fani-Kayode switched parties twice and, most recently, served as director of media and publicity to the campaign of defeated President Goodluck Jonathan.
Before the elections, the Supreme Court dismissed an appeal on preliminary issues brought by former Plateau State Governor Joshua Dariye – who skipped bail in the United Kingdom and absconded to Nigeria in 2004 – and directed that his trial in the High Court be expedited. The EFCC re-filed cases against some former governors and there have been reports in the media that more cases will be brought against former governors who enjoyed immunity from prosecution while in office.
Following the May 29 handover of power to newly elected President Muhammadu Buhari, the country is waiting to see how the new government will address the issue of corruption by previous governments. Indeed, part of Buhari's election manifesto was a promise to confront corruption in the country; he returned to the issue in remarks following the formal confirmation and certification of his election on April 2. Observers suggest that the increased enforcement activity reflects the tougher line expected to be taken by the incoming government.
For further information on this topic please contact Babajide Oladipo Ogundipe at Sofunde Osakwe Ogundipe & Belgore by telephone (+234 1 462 2502) or email (email@example.com). The Sofunde Osakwe Ogundipe & Belgore website can be accessed at www.sooblaw.com.
This article was first published by the International Law Office, a premium online legal update service for major companies and law firms worldwide. Register for a free subscription.