Nigeria says $15 billion stolen in security spending scams

Nigerian Vice President Yemi Osinbajo said about $15 billion was lost by the previous administration to fraudulent security spending, almost three times more than was earlier estimated by the government.

Osinbajo, who along with President Muhammadu Buhari defeated Goodluck Jonathan in elections last year on an anti-corruption campaign, said the figure was only discovered a few days ago, dwarfing the previous estimate of $5.5 billion allegedly misappropriated from contracts to buy defense equipment to fight the Islamist militant group Boko Haram.

The amount “is more than half of the current foreign reserves of the country,” Osinbajo said in a statement on Tuesday. “When you look at the sheer amount of money that has been embezzled, the sheer amount of money lost from any of these various cases of corruption, you will find that far too much has been lost.”

Last year Buhari, a 73-year-old former general and military ruler, ordered the arrest of Sambo Dasuki, Jonathan’s national security adviser, after a government commission alleged that he and other officials siphoned off funds meant for the military’s fight against Boko Haram. Dasuki, who is currently facing trial, has denied any wrongdoing.

Government investigators say Dasuki awarded “phantom” contracts for the purchase of four jets, 12 helicopters and bombs while troops on the front line against Boko Haram, which has killed thousands since 2009, complained of shortages of food, ammunition and equipment.

Looted Coffers

Nigeria’s political system has been dogged by graft since independence from the U.K. in 1960. Officials have routinely looted state coffers in the oil-rich West African nation, where more than half the 180 million population live on less than $2 a day, and robbed the government of cash to upgrade roads, schools and power plants. Africa’s largest economy came 136th out of 175 countries in Transparency International’s 2015 Corruption Perception Index.

With Nigeria also reeling from a slump in crude prices, Osinbajo said a delayed record 6.1 trillion naira ($30.6 billion) 2016 budget that will increase expenditure in an effort to stimulate the economy, may be passed in a few days.

Buhari has yet to pass the budget after it was stalled by politicians alleging in January that the document contained mistakes and discrepancies, before Parliament passed a version in March. Buhari said lawmakers removed and replaced what he put in the original spending plan and that he would review the budget before signing it into law, delaying disbursements to ministries and government agencies.

“By the grace of God, in the next few days we will begin the implementationof one of the most ambitious budgets in our history,” Osinbajo said.

– Bloomberg