Show us the money: Nigeria

Shortly after UK PM David Cameron’s comment that Nigeria was ‘fantastically corrupt’, President Muhammadu Buhari publically agreed with him but also asked for the UK’s help to return the money stolen in Nigeria and hidden in the UK. This highlights very clearly the ongoing problem not only in relation to Nigeria, but to many other countries around the world: that of public money being stolen by corrupt officials, laundered and transferred through tax havens abroad with the help of lawyers and bankers, and ultimately being put into bank accounts, goods and property, predominantly in North America and Western Europe.

The first question that comes to many people’s minds though when we speak about stolen assets is how much are we talking about and where are they located?

While this question is notoriously difficult to answer due to the secrecy that often surrounds asset theft and recovery cases, a few numbers and locations are out there. To start a small series on Nigeria, we decided to do our best to answer this question a few key figures.

$37 bn

This is the amount of stolen assets that Nigeria’s anti-corruption chief, Ibrahim Mahu, has said has been brought into London in 2014-2015.  He indicated this is predominantly through corruption in the oil sector. It is unclear whether he believes this all remains in London or whether some or all of it has been moved elsewhere.

Nigeria’s Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice indicated that no estimate has been given as to the total amount of Nigerian assets stolen and hidden in the UK.

$1.3 bn

Is the amount that was frozen in Switzerland, Liechtenstein and Luxembourg and is being returned in tranches to Nigeria through the World Bank after a settlement with the family and associates of Nigeria’s former ruler Sani Abacha.


The amount frozen and under legal proceedings in the US relating to the Sani Abacha case.


Is the amount the Abacha family and associates got to keep in the settlement of the stolen assets case involving Switzerland, Luxembourg and Liechtenstein.


Is the number of ongoing asset recovery cases involving Nigerian assets, according to the database of the World Bank and UNODC’s Stolen Asset Recovery Initiative.

According to the same database, 11 cases have been completed to date – mostly from the late 1990s and early 2000s.


Countries are involved in current cases involving Nigerian assets. 4 cases are ongoing in the USA, 3 in the UK, and 1 each in the Bahamas, France, Hong Kong, India, Ireland, Jersey and Luxembourg.

Photo: Robert Prather 2008

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