Anti-corruption activists in Nigeria say the president’s suspension of two top officials is only a first step and must be followed up with more action.
On Wednesday, Buhari suspended national intelligence agency chief Ayo Oke, who was linked to more than $40 million found in an empty Lagos apartment, and the secretary of his government, David Babachir Lawal, who allegedly collected money on a phony contract.
Abdulkarim Dayyabu is chairman of the Movement for Justice in Nigeria, a non-governmental organization. He says the suspensions are overdue.
“This should have been done a long time ago,” Dayyabu told VOA’s Hausa Service on Thursday. “Someone like Buhari ought to take immediate measures against any official accused of corruption; he should not wait for too long.”
Abdulmajid Dan Bilki Kwamanda is a member of the ruling APC coalition who recommends the president move against other aides.
“Buhari is finally fighting corruption from within. He must continue to look inwards and confront his senior officials who are accused of corruption head-on,” he said.”
Another activist, Naja’atu Mohammed, is skeptical that the suspended officials will be held accountable, saying the administration shielded Lawal previously when senators accused him of corruption.
“We are looking for results,” she told VOA.
There have been calls, including one from Nigeria’s Senate, for the removal of Lawal over his alleged complicity in the mismanagement of funds meant for a presidential initiative on northeastern Nigeria
Rholavision Engineering, a company owned by Lawal, received payments of about $500,000 from a contract he awarded for the clearing of “invasive plant species” in Yobe state.
Oke, director-general of the National Intelligence Agency (NIA), is embroiled in the discovery of $43 million in cash by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC.
So far, no one has claimed ownership of the money, which was in both local and foreign currencies.
Ownership of the apartment complex in which the funds were found, Osborne Towers Lagos, is still unclear, but the building is occupied by many powerful Nigerians including the former chairman of the opposition party, Ahmadu Muazu, whose PDP ruled Nigeria for years under former president Goodluck Jonathan.
Government spokesman Femi Adesina said the government has launched an investigation into the funds.
Another presidential spokesman, Garba Shehu, told VOA’s Umar Farouk Musa in Abuja that Buhari has given two probe panels, headed by Vice President Yemi Osinbajo, two weeks to investigate and submit their findings.
The suspensions follow recent discoveries of large amounts of money by the EFCC in strange places, including homes of senior government officials.
Last month, the EFCC found about $1.25 million abandoned in large bags at the Kaduna airport.
Earlier, nearly $10 million was seized from the home of a former head of Nigeria’s National Petroleum Company, NNPC, in the northern state of Kaduna.
The EFCC also uncovered yet another unclaimed $1 million in two shops at a shopping mall in Victoria Island, Lagos.
A new government initiative to reward whistleblowers is encouraging many Nigerians to reveal the secret locations of money stashed away by corrupt officials. The EFCC, Nigeria’s anti-corruption agency, has offered to give up to 5 percent of amounts recovered to the informants, whose identities it protects.