Pressure Mounts On Tinubu to Drop Bagudu Over Corrupt Charges


By Wilson Idemudia, reporting from Abuja.

From all indications, all may not be well in the house of Abubakar Atiku Bagudu as his ministerial ambition may soon come to a premature end. This is because, from documents cited over the weekend, several NGOs across the nation have stepped up pressure on President Bola Tinubu to distance his new government from his alleged corrupt past. The NGOs namely, the National Rights Group for Acceptability and Good Governance, Frontline Campaigners for Probity and Transparency and the Civil Society Campaign for Ethics and Humanity have all written strongly worded letters to the presidency, copying relevant government agencies as well, challenging his continued retention despite overwhelming evidence of his corrupt past.

The statements signed by their respective Chairmen categorically stated that Atiku Bagudu is not fit to be part of the new Tinubu Administration because he has pending criminal cases to answer in the United States and the United Kingdom. The cases specifically mentioned, bothered on embezzlement, extortion, bribes for contracts, fraudulent debt-by-back schemes, arm twisting to force kickbacks, and deliberate money laundering escapades. The documents completely exposed the former Kebbi State governor as a serial opportunist who “moved monies in cash, traveler’s cheques and wire transfer”.

The group collectively pleaded with President Bola Tinubu to run far away from him as he has nothing to offer his government except to smear its image. “We are actually embarrassed that the senate cleared him in the first instance”, said Chief Benard Kpenember a member of APC from Benue State. “He ought not to have been cleared at all knowing about his pending cases in court for corruption”, he stated. The document circulating gave detailed accounts of his involvement in the looting of the Central Bank of Nigeria from 1993 until the exit of former head of state General Sani Abacha. “Shockingly, Bagudu has the effrontery to ask for a refund of $155 million, which is part of the proceed of loot stashed away in foreign banks and seized”, disclosed Chief Kpenember.

According to the United States District Court, Bagudu along with some accomplices had used phony offshore companies to careen off huge amounts under false pretenses. “The case against him is too weighty to be ignored and President Tinubu should reject his nomination immediately”, chief Kpenember declared. From the document, it emerged that he is the principal culprit in the siphoning of nearly $ 2 billion of Nigeria’s’ money under the guise that they were for National Security. Chief Kpenember lamented that the senate is causing indignation in the land by their apparent lackadaisical attitude to rein in corrupt persons. “This is karma fighting back”, explained Chief Kpenember, adding that what they are doing is not new. “This man had been a senator, and governor and now wants to be a minister; it is unfair to the rest of Kebbi state indigenes and nation-building”, he said.

The group wondered why the APC finds it difficult to uphold justice and truth. They, therefore call on President Tinubu to boldly drop Bagudu specifically as part of cleansing measures. “He has to be dropped because he is coming to serve only his selfish interest in government”, said the group. They charged relevant government institutions to live up to expectations by taking the bull by the horns. “We would rather have strong institutions than individuals who have been exploiting their privileges to loot the treasury”, the group explained. The United States Department of Justice had branded Bagudu as part of a network that stole, embezzled, misappropriated, and extorted billions from the Nigerian government.

For this reason and others, his assets were reportedly frozen along with those traced to Abacha loot. In 2003, a criminal charge was brought against him in the United Kingdom. Those assets were later forfeited to the government. In 2013, the Department of Justice opened a fresh criminal case against him in the District Court in Washington having been convinced that Bagudu was guilty and only baying for time. Meanwhile, President Tinubu is said to be in dilemma over the issue and is weighing the option of discarding his nomination. While Bagudu has not been able to travel out of the country for eight years, the people of Kebbi are praying to see his back in the Tinubu administration.