Theophilus Danjuma, a retired general and former defence minister, is estimated by Forbes magazine to have a net worth of $600m. Other estimates put his wealth at $1.1bn. He is also the Chairman of South Atlantic Petroleum (SAPETRO), a Nigerian oil exploration company.
In 2006 Danjuma sold an oil block given to him by the corrupt despot Sani Abacha to a Chinese consortium for $1.7bn. He and his wife Daisy love nothing more than portraying themselves as philanthropists. His TY Danjuma Foundation has an endowment of $100m which it dishes out to worthy causes. The charity serves as a tool for creating a veneer of respectability for what is essentially stolen money.
Danjuma is also a major power broker in Nigeria aka “Any Government In Power” (AGIP), which refers to the fact that he always benefits regardless of who is in power – military or civilian. He was an informal “adviser” to former president Goodluck Jonathan. However, they were alleged to fall out when the retired general asked Jonathan to replace then oil minister Diezani Madueke with a Danjuma crony – Ibe Kachikwu. Jonathan declined that “advice” and Danjuma turned against him and threw his considerable financial support behind Muhammadu Buhari’s bid against Jonathan for the presidency.
Instructively, Kachikwu ended up as oil minister after Buhari won in 2015. Danjuma then called on the new administration to investigate Jonathan’s regime which he accused of being “very corrupt” and “financial recklessness”. Buhari campaigned on an anti-corruption platform, but was quick to engage with Danjuma after winning the presidency. Apart from Kachikwu, the new president also appointed another Danjuma placeman as a minister – his brother-in-law and member of the board of trustees of the TY Danjuma Foundation Osagie Ehanire.
Last year, Buhari appointed Danjuma to lead a committee on the rehabilitation of people displaced by the Boko Haram insurgency in northeast Nigeria. This sort of gig gives Danjuma the opportunity to play the role of elder statesman/philanthropist, but undermines Buhari’s credibility as an anti-corruption crusader.
An analysis by Private Eye magazine published this month revealed Danjuma as one of several “politically exposed persons” using mysterious UK shell companies for the purposes of money laundering. Danjuma was among 40 of the “world’s better connected wealthy elite” who “conceal assets” with the help of shell companies. He is described as: “the ultimate beneficial owner, via British Virgin Islands company Ottis Group Holdings Ltd, of Ottis (UK) Ltd”. Ottis UK has a registered office in Surrey. The magazine claims that the company was set up with a view to “buying and selling of own real estate”.
The Economist magazine in a 2012 article called “Launderers Anonymous” helped explain shell companies for the uninitiated. It is a company “which exist on paper only, with no real employees or offices”… “the untraceable shell also happens to be the vehicle of choice for money launderers, bribe givers and takers, sanctions busters, tax evaders and financiers of terrorism. The trail has gone cold in many a criminal probe because law enforcers were unable to pierce a shell’s corporate veil”.
If the Buhari regime was really serious about fighting corruption, the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) should be examining why Danjuma is using an offshore tax haven for his shell company, and how his retired general’s salary has made it possible to own real estate in the UK. This is very unlikely to happen. Instead, Buhari is more likely to be facilitating further accumulation of wealth by Danjuma via his cronies in the administration. As the looting spree continues, an “accommodating” UK corporate system and a Nigerian political system, described by Human Rights Watch as a “criminal enterprise”, allows Danjuma to legitimise his theft with the cloak of a successful businessman, philanthropist and elder statesman.