Former Nigerian head of state Lt Col Yakubu Gowon has denied an accusation made by a British MP of “stealing half of Nigeria’s Central Bank”.
The Conservative MP Tom Tugendhat said in the UK parliament on Monday:
“Some people will remember when General Gowon left Nigeria with half the Central Bank of Nigeria, so it is said, and moved to London.”
But, in an exclusive interview with the BBC, Lt Col Gowon took issue with accusation.
“I don’t know where he got that rubbish from, I served Nigeria diligently and my records are there for all to see,” he said.
After leaving power in a bloodless coup in 1975, Lt Col Gowon went to the UK and enrolled at Warwick University as an undergraduate where he studied political science and international relations.
Mr Tugendhat was speaking during a parliamentary debate on whether the British government should impose sanctions on Nigerian officials involved in the alleged excessive use of force on peaceful protesters during last month’s anti-police brutality demonstrations.
He went on to argue that London has a peculiar political influence because it is the place thieves choose to launder stolen money.
“We know that today, even now in this great city of ours, there are some people who have taken from the Nigerian people and hidden their ill-gotten gains here.
“Sadly, we know that our banks have been used for those profits and for that illegal transfer of assets. That means that the UK is in an almost unique position in being able to do something to exert pressure on those who have robbed the Nigerian people.”
In the 1990s, investigators found that another Nigerian President Sani Abacha stole millions of dollars in bank notes direct from the Nigerian Central Bank before he died suddenly in 1998.
While hundreds of millions of dollars have been returned to Nigeria from bank accounts in places ranging from Switzerland and Jersey, the case is still pending in the UK courts.