Corrupt Nigerian politicians, including those convicted by the courts, paid millions of naira to British schools as their students’ school fees, a report has stated.
This occurred while public schools in Nigeria deteriorated under the watch of some of these officials.
The report named two convicted former Nigerian governors, James Ibori and Joshua Dariye, as some of the politically exposed persons (PEPs) who sponsored their wards in British schools, likely using funds from corruption.
The report stated that United Kingdom private boarding schools and universities are top destinations for scores of children of top Nigeria politicians, many of whom have unexplainable sources of income.
The Carnegie Endowment for International Peace in its report released Thursday revealed how some Nigerian PEPs spent millions on their children in UK schools and the payment they made.
The report titled “West African elites’ spending on UK schools and universities: a closer look” said many past and serving senior Nigerian politicians that have held office since 1999 had sent one or more of their children to a UK private boarding school or university.
All of Nigeria’s presidents and vice presidents, for example, during that period, had done so, the report said. Likewise, roughly “40 percent of Nigeria’s current and former state governors have educated their children in the United Kingdom.”
“A comprehensive review of current and former senators, representatives, ministers, top military officers, and other senior officials almost certainly would reveal hundreds of more examples of Nigerian PEPs whose children went to British schools,” the report noted
Although some would have had the legitimate assets and earnings to do so, it is likely that many more used unexplained wealth to pay for some or all of their family member’s tuition fees, it added
PREMIUM TIMES had earlier reported how the research paper poked an accusing finger in the eyes of Nigerian political elites, saying they are using the British educational system as a money laundering shield in the guise of seeking better schooling opportunities for their children.
The report named Messrs Ibori and Dariye as “high-risks Nigerian elites that made payments to UK schools and universities.”
In particular, the report said former Plateau State governor, Joshua Dariye, who faced corruption charges in 2007 and was convicted in 2018 of stealing public funds was able to send his children to UK boarding schools and universities where he paid an estimated fee of £240,000 or N122 million.
Similarly, ex-Delta governor James Ibori, “convicted in 2012 by a British court on the grounds of fraud and money laundering continued to send his children to UK schools and universities. He paid an estimated amount of £286,000 (N145 million) within that period.”
Apart from the two former governors, the report said, a “prominent career politician from northern Nigeria with minimal income outside official earnings sent several children to UK private schools and universities about £861,000 which is equivalent to N441 million.”
“The politician’s spouse allegedly owns a high-end property in the United Kingdom.”
It also said a “senior Nigerian legislator who has been a career politician for the last twenty-four years has had multiple children attend independent British schools and universities where he spent an estimated fee of £665,000 or N339 million.” This, the report stated, is the same for a career Nigerian politician who has served in various government positions over two decades and has had multiple children in top British boarding schools and universities.
The said politician also owns high-end property in the United Kingdom having paid an estimated fee of £447,000 (N227 million), the report found.
The report cited an example of an unnamed prominent career politician from southern Nigeria who sent multiple children to top British boarding schools and universities. He spent a fee of £343,000 aside owning a luxury property in the UK.
Huge gap between earning and spending
In one part, the paper showed how payments of students’ tuition fee in the UK exceeds official salaries of Nigerian politicians and civil servants.
Even Nigeria’s most senior government officials earn relatively modest salaries according to the public officials’ salaries regulator, RMAFC, in 2020, the report stated.
It further presents a breakdown of data showing how a “Nigerian President earns N14 million annually” while his vice gets “N12 million which is equivalent to £28,866 and £24,742 respectively.
“A Nigerian cabinet minister takes home roughly £16,000 or N7.8 million annually, consisting of a modest base salary plus several large allowances and gratuities.
“The Chief Justice of the country gets N6.7 million; a Nigerian senator, N5 million; and N4 million for member of the house of representative”, the report found
The report focused only on the legal earnings of political office holders in Nigeria and not the questionable ones such as the N13.5 million allowance each senator receives monthly in addition to their legitimate salaries and allowances.
Meanwhile, at state level, the data shows that while “a governor is entitled to N7.8 million annually, his deputy receives N7.4 million. A state commissioner gets N4.9 million and N2.5 million for a state legislator.”
By comparison, the average annual fee for a UK boarding school is N17.1 million or £35,000 in 2020 which is about twice the annual pay package of a Nigerian governor or minister and about N3 million higher than the annual earnings of a president, assuming he spent all his earnings on tuition fee of a child, the report found.
But the figure is even thrice the annual salary of a senator and four times the pay package of a member of the House of Representatives.
This argument justifies the paper’s claim of the use of “unexplained” wealth by Nigerian politicians to pay for some or all of their family member’s tuition fees in the UK.
Nigerian universities deteriorate
While the politically exposed people in Nigeria are spending billions to send their wards to UK schools, Nigeria’s educational sector faces long-standing mismanagement, underfunding, incessant strike by staff unions and a decline in teaching standards.
Data analysed by this newspaper has shown that Nigerian lecturers have gone on strike 15 times since 1999, spanning about 51 months, including the nine-month-long strike that was suspended last December. Put simply, in every five years since 1999, Nigerian universities spent one year on strike.
This probably informed why many Nigerians criticize their political leaders who have their wards scattered across schools abroad.
In recent years, some of the top Nigerian politicians who have celebrated their wards’ graduations from foreign schools include President Muhammadu Buhari; Vice President Yemi Osinbajo; ex-Vice President Atiku Abubakar; a former senate president, Bukola Saraki and his deputy Ike Ekweremadu; and a serving senator and former Imo State governor, Rochas Okorocha.
VP Osinbajo is in the UK attending his son's graduation today. He returns to Abuja tomorrow
— Laolu Akande (@akandeoj) July 17, 2019
Please, join me in congratulating my darling daughter, Sonia Chinonso Ekweremadu, BA Media and Communications, on her graduation.
Well done, girl. Proud of you. I celebrate you. pic.twitter.com/gTk5imIjFI
— Ike Ekweremadu (@iamekweremadu) July 18, 2019
My daughter, Hasfat, graduated today. Wishing her the very best! pic.twitter.com/xjbekyswHQ
— Atiku Abubakar (@atiku) June 3, 2016
Meanwhile, the calls for increased funding and reformation of Nigeria’s education sector has continued, especially by the university lecturers’ union, ASUU. In 2021, the federal government earmarked only 5.67 per cent of its budget to education.
The Carnegie report found that most of Nigeria’s public primary and secondary schools are in terrible condition. Public universities are in a similarly poor state too, caused by funding cuts, labour disputes, and violent crime on campuses.
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