Nigeria Government Names Alleged Treasury Looters in Face Off

(Bloomberg) -- Nigeria named more than two dozen individuals suspected of looting billions of dollars of public funds in an anti-graft campaign that’s pitted political parties against each other.

President Muhammadu Buhari has pledged to fight corruption and boost resources available for building roads, bridges, ports, railways and power plants in order to spur growth in an economy that contracted in 2016. The release of the list of allegedly corrupt people came in response to a challenge by the opposition Peoples Democratic Party, which was in power before Buhari’s All Progressives Congress took control in 2015.

Former ministers, security officials, lawmakers, tax collectors, and aides to high-ranking officials were among 23 suspects identified by the Information Ministry Sunday. One case outlined suspected embezzlement of as much as $3 billion. That came on top of a list of six suspects released Friday, including leaders of the PDP.

PDP Chairman Uche Secondus, who the government accuses of taking 200 million naira ($555,555) from the office of the National Security Adviser in February 2015, denied any wrongdoing, and demanded damages, Lagos-based Punch newspaper reported. The PDP claimed it has a list of alleged thieves too, including ruling party leaders, and said the government is yet to account for about $26 billion in oil contracts, according to posts on its Twitter account.

“Government has a large number of alleged looters on its list. What was the PDP expecting when it challenged the federal government to name the looters of the public treasury under the party’s watch?,” Information Minister Lai Mohammed said in the statement. The government “will also not rest until all those who looted the public treasury have been brought to justice.”

The Berlin-based Transparency International’s global corruption-perception index released in February showed Nigeria had dropped 12 places under Buhari to 148 out of 172 countries.

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