35 Nigerian Governors, 15 Ministers, Others Purchase Dubai Properties With Suspected Public Funds

Photo Credit: Carnegie Endowment/ Getty Images

A report published by Carnegie Endowment for International Peace has revealed how Nigerian public officials and their proxies steal public funds and invest it in luxurious properties in Dubai, United Arab Emirates.

According to the report, Politically Exposed Persons under scrutiny by anti-graft agencies are seeking new ways to hide their ill-gotten wealth by purchasing expensive properties in Dubai.

The 800 Dubai properties linked to Nigerian PEPs are estimated to be worth well over N146bn ($400 million).

This equals roughly two-thirds of the Nigerian Army’s annual budget and over three times the annual budget of the Independent National Electoral Commission.

Quoting Sandcastles data, the report said 158 suspected PEP proxies bought 226 houses, 13 known Nigerian law enforcement suspects bought 216 houses, 50 PEP-linked businessperson bought 91 houses, 14 security sector leader bought 71 houses, 35 governors bought 69 houses, 16 legislators bought 45 houses, 16 heads of department and agencies bought 25 houses, 15 ministers bought 24 houses, 11 NNPC officials bought 19 houses, five Presidency staff bought 13 houses and one judge bought one house.

Some of the officials listed in the report include Kebbi State governor, Abubakar Bagudu, who is regarded as Abacha’s money man and godfather of Nigeria’s Attorney-General, Abubakar Malami.

Bagudu is affiliated with eight properties worth over $4.8m in total on the 12th floor of Dubai’s Capital Bay Towers, according to the report.

Mohammed Alabi Lawal, a former governor of Kwara State between 1999–2003, is reputed to own the most property on the list.

He owns six properties with a total purchase price of over $2m. At least one of those properties, a villa, was bought in January 2003 while Lawal was still in office.

Lawal died in 2006 but the properties haven’t been recovered.

Sandcastle data also showed that four political associates of former Delta State governor, James Ibori, have ties to properties in Dubai.

Ibori, a well-known financial offender in Nigeria, was arrested in 2010 under an Interpol warrant and was subsequently extradited to the United Kingdom.

In 2012, he pleaded guilty to 10 counts of fraud and money laundering involving at least $66.

In 2017, Ibori returned to Nigeria after serving six years in prison and remains a major political figure in Delta State.

One of his friends purchased four Dubai properties with a total value of $3.8m.

Another is affiliated with a two-bedroom flat on the 21st floor of the DAMAC Residenze, which, according to the developer, “comes with all the trappings of an indulgent lifestyle” as well as “uninterrupted panoramic views of the ocean”.

The official reportedly purchased the apartment for over $1.5m and also bought a flat in another development for $500,000.

A third Ibori ally is linked to a two-bedroom flat on the 23rd floor of the DAMAC Residenze that he purchased for over $1.3m. 

Yet another is tied to four luxury flats in Dubai purchased for over $2m.

Ahmadu Ali, a former chairman of the board at the Petroleum Products Pricing Regulatory Agency (2009–2011) facilitated a $6.8bn fuel subsidy fraud scheme.

Ali, his wife and son are linked to 11 properties in Dubai.

His wife, Marian, unsuccessfully ran for Senate in 2007 and is now a member of the All Progressives Congress.

Seven of Ali’s properties are together worth at least $4m; the other four are worth an estimated $2m.

Ali also owns two high-end London properties – a $10m house near Hampstead Heath and a $1.3m flat in Marylebone. 

Ali did not respond when confronted with being connected to the properties in Dubai.

A former Minister of Petroleum, Dan Etete is also linked to a parcel of land in Emirate Hills worth over $920,000.

He also owns a $500,000 apartment in the Palm Jumeirah’s Marina Residences.

Etete used an informal money changer to bring $21.5m into Dubai and this cash formed part of the $1.1bn that two international oil companies paid his company – Malabu Oil and Gas – for the license to an oil block that he awarded to himself while minister.

One such currency exchange operator, Mohammed Saminu Ibrahim Khalil, is linked to over $3m in Dubai property, according to the Sandcastles data.

In 2013, his business named Dan Kawu was accused of facilitating a N2.05bn bank fraud (worth $12.8m at the time).

Khalil was able to buy a three-bedroom luxury apartment in the DAMAC Residenze and a similar flat in Flamingo Cove, even listing his Dan Kawu email address on the purchase records.

When given an opportunity to comment on these allegations or his possible connection to property in Dubai, Khalil did not respond.

Shehu Badamasi, a businessman involved in the technology and petroleum sectors, created a Dubai property empire worth over $120m, according to the Sandcastles data.

He accomplished this despite being well-known to Nigerian law enforcement agencies.

Badamasi asserts that he and his companies do not as at February 2020 own any Dubai property.

When asked to clarify—he did not deny owning it.

At least one former NNPC Group Managing Director has ties to a Dubai property.

Shehu Ladan – a career government official, who briefly served as NNPC MD from April to May 2010, was linked to a flat in Dubai Marina.

He however, died suddenly in Dubai in October 2011.

Another NNPC alumni linked to Dubai property is Samuel Chuba Okeke, who served as Managing Director of the Petroleum Products Marketing Company – NNPC’s corruption-prone downstream subsidiary – from April 2010 to February 2011.

According to the Sandcastles data, Okeke is affiliated with a villa in Jumeirah Park worth roughly $1.1m and a property in the high-end Jumeirah Beach Residences where the average apartment sells for $614,000.

Two former chairmen of the Military Pensions Board—including retired Rear Admiral Bala Mohammed Mshelia (2011–2013)—are linked to three properties.

One purchased a flat in the Lago Vista complex for $670,000, while Mshelia is linked to two flats in Dubai Marina worth up to a total of $1m.

Mshelia did not respond when given the opportunity to comment on these unproven allegations.

Two of Nigeria’s former Deputy Senate Presidents, Ibrahim Mantu (1999–2007) and Ike Ekweremadu (2007–2019), are separately linked to multiple luxury properties in Dubai

According to the report, Ekweremadu is connected to eight Dubai properties with an estimated total value in excess of $7m.

These include a luxury flat in Park Towers bought for $2.2m and one in Burj Dubai purchased for $1.4m.

According to the United Kingdom’s public records, Ekweremadu is also linked to at least two properties in the country purchased between 2008 and 2011 for a total of $6.5m.

One of these properties, an upscale flat in central London, is registered in the name of Ekweremadu’s charitable foundation.

The second, a detached house in a North London suburb, is owned by a shell company registered in the British Virgin Islands.

Through his spokesman, Ekweremadu has denied owning “purported ‘hidden properties’” and has stated “unequivocally that he declared all his assets with the Code of Conduct Bureau as required by law.”

The reports found out that many Nigerian elites use proxies to hide their ownership of property but just as many buy with impunity.

The vast majority of people mentioned in the report have been investigated by the Economic and Financial Crimes with no known conviction.