John Campbell.*
On February 7, the Federal High Court in Lagos issued a warrant for the arrest of Ayodele Oke, former director general of the National Intelligence Agency (NIA), and his wife Folasade following an application by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC). Just before they were due to appear in court, they apparently left the country for “medical treatment,” and the Nigeria media is not reporting where they are now. The EFCC has declared the couple wanted after their failure to respond to a court summons.

They are charged with the theft and laundering of staggering amounts of public money. One of the EFCC charges relates to roughly $43 million, £28 thousand, and ₦23 million—all in cash—that the EFCC found in their apartment in Lagos in 2017 following a raid. Another charge relates to $160 million that the couple allegedly diverted from the Nigerian federal government for their own use.

In 2017, Oke was suspended as director general of the NIA. Vice president Yemi Osinbaijo headed a committee that investigated the incident and recommended to President Buhari that the director general be removed.
Oke is a member of Nigeria’s political class. He studied at Emory University in Atlanta, became a career diplomat, and served as Nigeria’s ambassador to the Secretariat of the Commonwealth of Nations in London. He was appointed director general of the National Intelligence Agency (NIA) by then-President Goodluck Jonathan in 2013. The Nigerian NIA is roughly analogous to the Federal Bureau of Investigation in the United States.

President Buhari has made the fight against corruption his signature policy, though critics have accused him of using it as a tool to go after his political enemies. Some media have said that Oke was “close to” Buhari and viewed how the case was handled as important to the president’s anti-corruption bona fides. However, at least in the media, there is little or no evidence of any such close relationship. At the very least, this episode is illustrative of the magnitude of corruption in parts of the upper reaches of Nigerian government.

*Ambassador John Campbell is former US Ambassadors Nigeria, and now a senior Fellow of African Affairs at the Council on Foreign Relations,Washington, DC.

**Courtesy of CFR