EXCLUSIVE: Buhari’s Minister was charged with fraud, then discharged under unclear circumstances

Uguru Usani, Niger Delta Minister
Uguru Usani, Niger Delta Minister

The Minister of Niger Delta Affairs, Usani Usani, was charged with fraud 15 years ago, after he was indicted in 2000 by the government of Cross River State where he served as a commissioner, PREMIUM TIMES can authoritatively reveal.

PREMIUM TIMES had earlier published a story which showed how Mr. Usani, who had just finished serving then as Commissioner for Agriculture, Water Resources and Rural Development, was indicted by a committee set up by the Donald Duke administration in 1999.

The committee was set up to investigate financial impropriety among officials of the preceding military administration in the state.

Mr. Usani’s indictment is documented in a state government White Paper.

The investigating committee, headed by Orok Oyo, alleged in its report that Mr. Usani intended to defraud the state government, and refused to apply government approved scales when he paid out some money as fees to Gersh Henshaw & Company, a firm of estate surveyors and valuers.

The firm handled the contract for the valuation of vehicles, workshops and equipment belonging to the Cross River State Water Board.

The valuation was said to be part of the African Development Bank water project in the state.

The committee said the state government lost N16.323 million because of Mr. Usani’s “deliberate” action.

Mr. Duke’s administration, apart from accepting the committee’s report, directed that the N16, 323,150 be recovered from Mr. Usani, and that he should be prosecuted as well.

PREMIUM TIMES has confirmed from available court documents that the state government actually filed complaint against Mr. Usani at the Code of Conduct Bureau (CCB).

Apart from Mr. Usani, the government also filed cases against seven other persons, including Mr. Usani’s erstwhile boss, the former military governor of the state, Umar Ahmed.

Two other former military administrators – Gregory Agboneni and Christopher Osondu – were also on the list of those charged.

However, no sooner had CCB forwarded the case to the Code of Conduct Tribunal (CCT) for trial, than the state government quickly made a U-turn, and asked for its discontinuation.

No reason was given for the decision.

But those familiar with the case said the government’s action may have been influenced by political consideration.

A July 5, 2001 letter by the secretary to the state government, addressed to the CCB chairman, said the instruction to withdraw the case against Mr. Usani and others came from the then governor, Mr. Duke.

The CCB, in its reply, informed the government that the tribunal on September 12, 2001 had accordingly ruled that further criminal proceedings against Mr. Usani and others be discontinued, and that the case against them was struck out.

The CCB’s letter, with reference number CCB/HQ/IM/007/102, was signed by J.J. Ndupu, the bureau’s legal adviser, on behalf of the attorney-general of the federation.

As at the time of publishing this report, the CBB was yet to furnish PREMIUM TIMES with details of the charges that were filed against Mr. Usani and others.

A lawyer in the bureau’s legal department, who simply gave his name as Sam, told PREMIUM TIMES, Monday, that workers at the tribunal were still searching for documents relating to the case.

Rabana Lawal, who was the attorney-general and commissioner for justice in Cross River at the time, told PREMIUM TIMES that she could not recall what caused the state government to reverse its decision.

“The government was a responsible one,” said Mrs. Lawal, a Senior Advocate of Nigeria. “They wouldn’t have done it without a reason.”

Besides, she said after the White Paper was produced, her office was no longer involved from that point onward.

The former governor, Mr. Duke, did not answer or return calls. He also did not respond the text messages sent to his mobile telephone line.

Mr. Usani too did not respond to our calls and text messages.

PREMIUM TIMES also confirmed that the government initially accepted that Gersh Henshaw & Company be blacklisted. It later reversed itself, and absolved the firm of any wrongdoing.

Two lawyers, Doueyi Fiderikumo, and Inibehe Effiong, told PREMIUM TIMES that the CCB could have continued the case if it wished, but that it would have been an uphill task without the backing of the complainant.

“In law, discharge is different from acquittal. It is just a temporary relief. The prosecution is at liberty to re-file the charges at anytime,” Mr. Effiong said.

President Muhammadu Buhari has been under intense criticisms from the opposition who are accusing his administration of being selective in its war against corruption.

Many people have challenged the president to also investigate members of his cabinet for alleged corruption.


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  • Factsay

    They are corrupt including Buhari

  • dimuso

    If proven to be true, he should be dropped without delay.

    • Marcus Ijele

      The Judges that were terrorized by Terrorists DSS were told to step aside whilst they are investigated. If that is the case, the Minister should not wait to be proved guilty before stepping aside. The allegation is damaging to his reputation and career. He should resign.

  • Mamman Bako

    Please touch not the ones PMB has anointed.

    • Tunji Olarewaju

      I’m Buhari must have instructed Duke to withdraw the charges in 2001.Idiota absoluta

  • UOU

    The head is rotten , why bother about the finger nails, its a shameless govt, built on hypocrisy and deceit. The result is everywhere, for everyone to see

    • Sean

      You’re deluded!!

      • UOU

        Bewitched sycophant, forever you will remain a failure. I don’t blame you, monkey

  • Marcus Ijele

    It is practically impossible for all the members of Buhari cabinet to be declared corruption free. There is hardly any of them that does not have one or two case/s of corruption on his/her head but because the man Buhari himself is more corrupt than corruption, he can not do any anything about that. The corrupt APC members are like cult group with an oath never to report a fellow cult member.

    • Ubong

      The government will be messy if any of them is touched or investigated. The sources of their campaign funds will be messy. President Buhari is fully aware of this. Regional DSS and EFCC/Miliatry and Police is fully aware of the mess that will come out if, for example, the likes of Amaechi, Fashola and other southern known corrupt party members are investigated, although they can be easily silent by regional investigative agencies _DSS and EFCC. Regarding Northern corrupt Nigerian, they are already untouchable although they could be taking into custody and release while other assumed less privileged Nigerian could remain in eternal custody despite court granting them bail. This government know how to make it look like a country where equality is upheld by always making sure any comment on issues of clear abused of human rights of citizen from particularly region is always seen as government doing the right thing by a spoke person from the south appointed by the government. -Oshohmole and Okorocha as the information minister to defend their actions , when it comes to supporting arbitrary arrest and detention, disobeying court orders when their kinsmen are being humiliated, harassed and detain by government that daily look more like colonial master ruling some sub-urban villagers who are highly educated but decided to abdicate their rights to accept to eat the crumbs from their masters table.

  • thusspokez

    Many people have challenged the president to also investigate members of his cabinet for alleged corruption.

    Trust Buhari to play deaf or tell you (if you are a woman) that you belong to his kitchen!

    • Mufu Ola

      All good wives belong to the kitchen. Try to “intrude” into your wife’s kitchen & watch her reaction.We men like to be hypocritical.

  • Rommel

    Usani Uguru Usani has no case to answer, the case was struck out and dismissed

    • Decimator

      Struck out by the same proclamed corrupt judiciary and Judges I suppose. Was the
      Judgement not bought with cash this time around or do we now have corrupt and
      non-corrupt judgements coming from the same purported corrupt judiciary?

      • Rommel

        Do you now see why PMB must be supported by all people of good will to clean up the Judicial Augean stable? we need to build confidence in our institutions and to achieve this,rotten eggs must be sorted out

        • Otile

          Imam Buhari is not helping matters with his own questionable School Certificate, Burtai’s corruption and shameful nepotism.

        • Decimator

          Until he shows the WAEC Certificate he claimed to have acquired , he has not really started. That is not asking him for too much but simply the basic prerequisite as required by the constitution and that will help in building the much needed confidence.

          • Rommel

            Those that matter have seen the said Cambridge O’level print out

          • Decimator

            Sorry, the discussion is over. You have said all.

          • Christopher

            “Those dat matter” like Tinubu and that lady from the other room abi?
            Rommel, common on grow up…

    • Otile

      You are claiming this because he serves at the beck and call of your god Imam Sai Buhari.

  • Festus

    But any right thinking person would have expected the Senate to do thorough investigations via All Security agencies before being made a Minister!! Abi??

  • Datti

    The case was withdrawn, whether he was discharged and or acquitted, did not matter. He is innocent until someone comes with fresh charges. PT should not be doing the bidding of some bad belle persons

  • Bash

    What is the issue here? The complainant withdrew his case? So legally Mr Uguru is a clean man and couldn’t have been faulted on account of this case! if you say it was an expedient political decision to withdraw the case then did you also asked the question whether the initial ‘indictment’ was also an expedient political decision – just to bring down the man? What is this so much rush to distract a government focussed on fighting corruption? It appears Premium times just want to justify its story – you can do better by trying on another story!

  • Otile

    It seems more and more people are now seeing for themselves that Imam Buhari is corrupt to the teeth.

    • Uzoma John

      Shut up. Was it Buhari that discharged the case? You guys keeping poking for avenues to insult a disciplined incorruptible man. You wish you god GEJ has his impeccable credentials. Thieves.

      • Otile

        I don’t like how you Yorubas answering Igbo names jump to insult anyone who does not praise your god Imam Mohamed Buhari.

    • Mufu Ola

      You’re apparently eager to recruit credible people into your looters brigade.

  • Ayinde

    How about the request for fund written by Lai Mohammed to the Broadcasting Commission ? Guess its swept under the carpet .

  • Paul Young

    Premium times is just being mischievous with this report. The man was not convicted of any corruption charge, infact HE WASNT EVEN TRIED, because the government who brought the case against him withdrew same. For heaven sake isnt this supposed to be the beauty of democracy and the judicial system? Innocent until proven guilty. Any one of us could be accused of something and sued to court. When i saw the headline, i even thought he had an active investigation against him last year when Buhari nominated him as minister. This report is garbage. PT should have gotten concrete facts first, especially why the case was withdrawn before publishing it. So is Buhari All knowing that he should know about a case that never was back in 1999/2000?

    • Dr. Inih A. Ebong

      Whatever the name you may call it, grow up, son, and know that, the presumption of innocence apart until proven guilty, crime is not compoundable; however long it takes, be it a hundred years, any crime committed today can still be investigated and prosecuted. There is always the mix of innocence and guilt once a crime has been sighted and reported, and until all the facts and issues regarding the crime are resolved there will always remain this mix. The media is there to uncover and report to the public and the powers that be, whatever is being or has been swept under the carpet for their information and necessary action. We are no longer in the era of Decree No. 4 when public officers could rape a woman on Eko Bridge in broad daylight and nobody could report it or publicly comment on it. This is the essence now of the Freedom of Information Act which makes it possible for you and I to know the secret goings-on in government. Be educated, son.

  • CEO

    The guy probably went to Donald Duke, with proof of his(Duke’s)corrupt practices, and thereby forced his hands. Maryam Uwais, Duke’s defence counsel on the corruption suit filed against him by EFCC, and wife of former Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, who is known for defending indicted and corrupt high profile politicians during Obasanjo’s administration, and now a personal assistant to Buhari, may be in a position to shed some light as to why Donald Duke made the about-turn and scuttled Usani’s prosecution. It may just take a little more digging, but the facts may not be far fetched.

  • Izedomi Ohirein

    Most Nigerian public officers might have cases to answer if they are all probed.
    Lets concentrate on corruption with fresh evidence & let alleged corruption withdrawn 15years ago unprosecuted.
    This Man – Mr Usani in the eye of the law is still presumed innocent until found guilty by a Court of competent jurisdiction.

    • Vicolo

      He should step aside and clear his name, isn’t it?