In Nigeria, president Buhari’s anti-corruption battle is shaking up his own team

Thinning the focus.
Thinning the focus.
Image: AP Photo/Frank Augstein, Pool, File
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During his campaign for the presidency and since taking office two years ago Nigeria’s president Muhammadu Buhari has reiterated his anti-corruption campaign as a pillar of his administration.

But while his public rhetoric galvanized the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), Nigeria’s anti-graft agency, his actions, when presented with a chance to mop out corruption within his own government, haven’t always matched his rhetoric.

While several high profile members of his predecessor’s government have been arrested, there have been claims the anti-corruption campaign has not targeted members of the current administration.

But with two high-profile suspensions of two government officials this week, that has changed. More significantly, Buhari has ordered the suspension of Babachir Lawal, the Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF), over “allegations of violations of law and due process.” Lawal, a member of Buhari’s kitchen cabinet, was implicated by Nigeria’s Senate’s discovery of a $8m fraud scandal around relief funds meant for rebuilding Nigeria’s troubled northeast after nearly a decade of a Boko Haram-led insurgency. Lawal was accused of being recipient, through his company, of controversial contracts from the committee in charge of the relief funds.

Initially, Buhari resisted calls to sack his SGF as recommended by Nigeria’s Senate. That decision, given the weight of the allegations faced by Lawal, served as fodder for the opposition sentiment that members of Buhari’s government and party were shielded from his anti-corruption fight.

Buhari has also suspended Ayo Oke,  director general of Nigeria’s National Intelligence Agency (NIA), in response to a growing controversy over EFCC’s latest cash haul find of $43 million following a tip-off through an ongoing whistle-blower program. Following the discovery of the money in an empty Lagos apartment and the order of temporary forfeiture by a Federal High Court in Lagos, NIA made a claim for the money.

But, in a statement yesterday (Apr. 19) Buhari called for a “full-scale investigation”.