Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan threatened legal action Wednesday after he was listed as the sixth richest head of state in Africa, calling the report baseless and an attempt to incite Nigerians against him.
The United States-based publication, Richest Lifestyle, ranked Mr. Jonathan alongside King Mswati III of Swaziland, both men reportedly worth $100 million (about N16.5 billion).
The richest African president, the magazine said, is Angola’s Jose Eduardo dos Santos, with a net worth of $20 billion.
The Nigerian presidency condemned the publication, and described it as another attempt to unjustifiably portray Mr. Jonathan as a corrupt leader.
A statement by a presidential spokesperson, Reuben Abati, said there was no factual basis to the report.
The presidency demanded a retraction of the “libellous” publication and an apology, vowing to institute a legal action within and outside Nigeria.
“We have noted with consternation the listing of President Goodluck Jonathan by a website – RichestLifestyle.com – as the sixth richest African President with an estimated net worth of $100 Million U.S. Dollars.
“The Presidency condemns the totally unwarranted inclusion of President Jonathan in the publication titled “Africa’s Richest Presidents 2014” as another attempt to unjustifiably portray the President as a corrupt leader and incite public disaffection against him.
“We therefore demand a retraction and an unreserved apology from Richest Lifestyle.com and all those who have reproduced the offensive article.
“Otherwise, they should be prepared to substantiate their libelous claims against the president in courts of law within and outside Nigeria,” Mr. Abati said in the statement.
Since coming to office, Mr. Jonathan has maintained a firm lid on his wealth status, and has repeatedly made it clear inquisitions or speculations about his worth would not be entertained.
The president, till date, has not publicly declared his asset.
When asked during an interview in 2012 why he has refused to disclose his assets to encourage transparency, Mr. Jonathan famously retorted: “I don’t give a damn”.
As vice president, Mr. Jonathan managed to declare his asset, apparently prodded by then President Umar Yar’adua.
In the assets he made public at the time, the then Vice President Jonathan said he had not bought any car of his own even after serving as deputy governor, governor and vice president.
The only car Mr. Jonathan admitted to owning, was a gift.
The vice president also listed other properties, including a boat.
Richest Lifestyle did not state how it arrived at its figure of $100 million.
For President Jonathan, the paper merely stated that “Goodluck Jonathan is the President of Nigeria. His net worth is estimated to be around $100 million. He launched a ‘Roadmap for Power Sector Reform’, launched the Youth Enterprise with Innovation in Nigeria and launched the Transformation Agenda. He is a member of the ruling ‘People Democratic Party’.
The presidency said the report was flawed and without basis.
“We categorically assert that there is no factual basis for ranking President Jonathan as the sixth richest African Head of State with a net worth of about $100 Million U.S. Dollars.
“As is well known, President Jonathan has never been a businessman or entrepreneur, but a life-long public servant.
“The President has held public office since 1999 and has regularly declared his assets as required by Nigerian laws.
“He has had no personal income since 1999 other than his official remuneration as deputy governor, governor, vice president, acting president and president which are matters of public record.
“There has been no significant variation in the totality of his personal assets as contained in his last declaration to the Nigerian Code of Conduct Bureau in 2011 which, as can be verified, was a very, very far cry from the $100 million figure now being bandied about by Richest Lifestyle.com and other irresponsible, copy-cat publications.
“The clear and unacceptable imputation of the claim that President Jonathan is now worth about $100 Million is that the President has corruptly enriched himself while in office which is certainly not the case,” it said.