I try not to subscribe to stereotypes, as they encourage laziness and shortcut thinking (or lack of thinking), but sometimes the subject of a stereotype seems to be doing all it can to perpetuate it. We all remember James Ibori, the one-time Wickes cashier turned governor of Nigeria’s oil-rich Delta State, who is currently serving time here in the UK for money laundering. It seems that his fate is not enough of a warning. In September 2015 it was announced that the new governor of Delta State, Ifeanyi Okowa, has appointed two people to his cabinet who are closely associated with Ibori: Chiedu Ebie (who is related by marriage to Ibori) and David Edevbie (who worked as Commissioner for Finance in Ibori’s administration) are both suspected of involvement in Ibori’s dodgy dealings. Interestingly, this seems not to disqualify them from senior political roles with access to, oh, you know, public money.
It’s not as though Ibori’s hand in the till was an isolated incident. This weekend the death was announced of Diepreye Alamieyeseigha, former governor of Nigeria’s Bayelsa State, who was charged with money laundering in London in September 2005 but skipped bail later that year and never returned to face the music. Goodluck Jonathan, who would eventually become president of Nigeria, was Alamieyeseigha’s deputy governor in Bayelsa State and succeeded him. In March 2013, President Jonathan granted his former boss a state pardon, which seemed to many to be condoning – or at least tolerating – corruption.
And at the beginning of this month Diezani Allison-Madueke, Nigeria’s former minister of petroleum, was arrested in London (where she is undergoing treatment for cancer) and charged with money laundering. In January 2015, US$700 million in cash was allegedly found in her home in Abuja. When the matter was reported to then-President Jonathan (he was voted out of office in May 2015), he expressed exasperation but took no action. This is perhaps not surprising: in February 2014, President Jonathan handed out awards to celebrate Nigeria’s centenary. Among the posthumous recipients was everyone’s favourite corrupt PEP, General Sani Abacha, who was honoured for his contribution to his nation’s development. Ah yes, but development as what?