More than 100 Nigerians have at least one offshore company in tax havens

A new set of names have been released from the Panama Papers by Nigerian online news organisation Premium Times. The new list includes names of eminent Nigerians in business and politics. It also has names of traditional rulers and some relatively unknown Nigerians. The names of the Nigerians on the list were found in parts of the 11.5 million documents equaling 2.6 terabytes, from Panamanian law firm Mossack Fonseca, a company regarded as one of the world’s most secretive companies that has helped clients launder money, dodge sanctions and evade tax by selling anonymous offshore companies.

German newspaper Süddeutsche Zeitung (SZ) had in April released the Panama Papers, the biggest leak in the history of data journalism after a thorough investigation done in collaboration with the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ) and more than 100 media organizations in over 80 countries, one of which was Premium Times.

Some of the names on the Nigerian list had earlier been released by the online platform, including Africa’s richest man Aliko Dangote, Former Delta State Governor James Ibori among others. The new list, however, adds more names, totaling 110, all with at least one offshore shell company in tax havens across the globe.

Apart from Dangote, ex-Senate President David Mark and former Defence Minister T.Y. Danjuma who have been listed earlier, other top Nigerians found in the leaked Panama Papers include Late Yoruba monarch Oba Okunade Sijuade, Ooni of Ife, who was listed to have one offshore company in the British Virgin Islands. Others include Globacom Chairman Mike Adenuga, current Governor of Niger State Abubakar Bello, Former GMD of the state oil company Funso Kupolokun, Chairman Etisalat Nigeria Hakeem Bello-Osagie, Senator representing Nigeria’s Anambra South Andy Uba, popular pastor TB Joshua, CEO of Oando Wale Tinubu. Other names can be found here.

While the release of the leaked documents have led to high profile resignations, triggered official inquiries in multiple countries, nothing has really been done in Nigeria. In fact, questions have hardly been asked by the authorities. Many Nigerians do not expect a better response, even from a government that has been hard on corruption.

The Panama Papers fever is not over yet, as the ICIJ is set to release a fresh list on May 9 based on data from the Panama Papers investigation. The searchable database to be made public next week will include information about more than 200,000 companies, trusts, foundations and funds incorporated in 21 tax havens, from Hong Kong to Nevada in the United States.

While the impact of the leak has been epic, it is important to note that offshore banking or shareholding in an offshore company may not necessarily be illegal. But, if the existence of tax havens encourage illicit financial flows — through which Africa loses more than $50 billion every year — why allow their continued existence?