2017 was one of those really interesting years for Nigeria — the monkeypox virus did a terrifying nationwide tour, Lai Mohammed blamed the weather for a fuel scarcity that ruined Christmas, and our travel blogger president spent 103 days in London treating what we still don’t know till today. What could possibly top any of these?
Andrew Yakubu said, “Hold my beer.“
There’s a select list of positions in Nigeria many people would die to occupy, and the Group Managing Director (GMD) of the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) ranks high. Andrew Yakubu had that job between 2012 and 2014. And since you can’t reach that kind of position without attracting the attention of village people and haters, one of them gave the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) a tip-off in 2017, three years after Yakubu had been removed from his NNPC position.
When the EFCC acted on that tip and raided a building tied to Yakubu in Kaduna State on February 3rd 2017, they found over $9.8 million in cash stashed in a huge fireproof safe.
The NNPC has retained a reputation for being one of the biggest enablers of corruption in Nigeria, so the discovery of millions of dollars in Yakubu’s building raised some eyebrows.
This was a slam dunk case of corruption, right? The court quickly threw this person in jail, right?
On March 16th 2017, the EFCC arraigned Andrew Yakubu in court for money laundering, non-disclosure of assets and fraud. The agency accused him of stealing the seized cash while he was NNPC GMD. He’d allegedly moved the money in bits and pieces from Abuja to Kaduna between 2012 and 2014.
We’re only halfway into this story and this already feels like it should be a film on the big screen.
Yakubu didn’t deny the cash, but his version of events on how he happened to stockpile $9.8 million was very different from what the EFCC was working with. Hold on to your hats.
$5k gift here, $10k gift there
When he testified before the court in July 2020, Yakubu provided a simple explanation for his stash — 98% of the seized $9.8 million was received as gifts from friends. These friends dashed him money left, right and centre on birthdays, thanksgiving services, his daughters’ weddings and other celebrations he hosted after leaving office in 2014. These gifts also never passed $10,000 at a time — just enough not to violate any money laundering laws.
To the question of where the other 2% of the stash came from, Yakubu told the court that he’d been saving a lot from the travel allowances he got as a government official for over 25 years.
He was simply stashing the money and waiting for when his business idea was ready to launch before the EFCC swooped in with allegations.
And the winner is…
After five years of twists and turns, the Federal High Court in Abuja cleared all the charges against Yakubu on March 31st 2022. Justice Ahmed Mohamed ruled that the EFCC didn’t establish a strong case to prove that the former NNPC GMD stole the $9.8 million.
Remember how we asked two good questions a moment ago about friends that are generous gifters? Well, the court ruled that the EFCC should have been just as inquisitive and asked Yakubu for his list of generous gifters to question them. The EFCC didn’t do that. This proves one thing — we’re better at investigations than the EFCC.
Us every two minutes.
Since the court determined that Yakubu’s case was more credible than the one presented by the EFCC, the agency has been asked to return his cash to him in full.
So, how do you get away with $9.8 million?
1. Pray for EFCC investigators that cannot do 2 + 2 investigations.
2. Have generous friends.
3. Cultivate a saving culture.