Head of Nigeria′s anti-graft court charged with accepting bribe | Africa | DW | 03.02.2018
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Corruption in Nigeria

Head of Nigeria's anti-graft court charged with accepting bribe

Nigeria's top anti-corruption judge, tasked with high-profile cases, has himself been charged with illegally accepting money. The country's anti-graft body accused Danladi Umar of demanding a bribe from a suspect.

Judge Danladi Umar allegedly demanded 10 million nairas (€22,300; $27,800)  from a suspect "for a favor to be afterward shown to him concerning the pending charge," according to court papers seen by various news outlets.

The embattled Umar, who is the head of the Code of Conduct Tribunal (CCT), was also alleged to have received, through the intermediary of his assistant, the sum of 1.8 million nairas from the same accused in 2012 "in connection with the pending case before him."

Angry, but not surprised

Nigerians reacted angrily at the news of the corruption charges against one of the country's top judges.

"I'm not surprised about the corruption allegations against Danladi Umar. Corruption is like a tradition in the judiciary system," Mayowa Adebola, a resident in Lagos, told DW. "You don't have any reason to doubt corruption in the Code of Conduct Tribunal given their records, even though they have tried several high-profile corruption cases in the past," he added. 

Another resident, Yomi Olagoke, said, "The allegations against Umar are quite serious, and it boils down to how our anti-corruption bodies are set up and run," adding that for many Nigerians, holding an anti-corruption post was an opportunity to make money. 

But Olisa Ojukwu took the issue to social media.

"This administration is not fighting any corruption, believe me," Ojukwu said via Facebook, adding that the administration of President Muhammadu Buhari was only chasing and witch-hunting people who seemed to be an obstacle to its 2019 comeback.

In June 2017, Umar acquitted Senate President Bukola Saraki of the 18 charges pressed against him by the federal government at the CCT.  In December 2017, Nigeria's anti-graft body, the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), appealed the ruling, and a panel of judges ordered a retrial on three of the charges initially brought against Saraki. 

Read more: Goodluck Jonathan, Nigeria's ex-president, ordered to testify in corruption trial

Buhari's nominee rejected

Meanwhile, a court in Abuja has backed the Senate's rejection of Ibrahim Magu as the head of the EFCC. The Nigerian president had nominated Magu — currently the acting EFCC chair — twice, but the Senate rejected him on suspicions that he was corrupt.

"The Senate is an oversight body, so if Magu does not fulfill the conditions to become EFCC chairman, the Senate has the right to reject him," Sylvester Odion Akhaine, a student at Lagos University, told DW.

"It is for the president to nominate another person or to present him again with stronger background information that will convince the Senate," he added.

But Muyiwa Obayomi, a fresh university graduate in Lagos, has a different take on the matter.

"Many of the senators are concerned that they might get into trouble with the EFCC," Obayomi said, adding that the Senate president and Magu were not friends, given the allegations by the EFCC leveled against Saraki.  

Muhammadu Buhari after he arrived back from England (Reuters/Nigeria Presidency Handout)

Many Nigerians say Buhari's anti-corruption agenda is crumbling

Hard fight  

In 2015, President Buhari vowed to eliminate corruption in the country. However, the fight against graft seems to be harder than was thought when he came to power.

Many of Buhari's own confidants have found themselves caught in the anti-corruption net.

Last month, Nigeria's anti-graft squad said it had placed David Babachir Lawal, once a senior official under President Buhari, in custody for alleged corruption.

Lawal was appointed to the job of government secretary by Buhari in August 2015. He was, however, stripped of office under suspicion of having awarded contracts running into millions of euros to companies in which he had interests.

His arrest came after former Nigerian President Olusegun Obasanjo attacked Buhari's record, accusing him of nepotism. Obasanjo urged Buhari not to stand again in elections due next year. Critics frequently accuse Buhari of soft-pedaling on corruption to protect his own entourage. 

Read more: Oil companies Shell and Eni to stand trial in Italy over Nigeria bribes

Rampant bribery

In December 2017, the former campaign chief of Nigeria's ex-President Goodluck Jonathan was arrested for allegedly stealing €39 million ($48.6 million) from state coffers to fund his failed 2015 re-election bid.

In August 2017, a survey on corruption published by the country's statistics office said almost a third of adult Nigerians paid civil servants and other public officials bribes totaling €1.02 billion ($1.27 billion) annually. The poll among households shows the uphill challenge the government of President Muhammadu Buhari is facing in fighting corruption, which has undermined development in the oil exporter for decades.

Nigeria's Supreme Court said last year there were 1,124 corruption cases before the courts.  For some, this is a sign that President Buhari is following through on his election promises to deal with those behind the rampant theft of public funds.

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Sam Olukoya in Abuja contributed to this report.

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