Nigeria: Anti-graft officials arrest defeated candidate’s son-in-law for alleged money laundering

The sum involved is 150 million euros ($169 million)
A bus decorated with campaign posters bearing images of the opposition Peoples Democratic Party election candidate Atiku Abubakar and his running mate Peter Obi stands on a road in Abuja on February 19, 2019, ahead of the re-scheduled general election. (Photo by Pius Utomi EKPEI / AFP)

Nigerian anti-corruption investigators have arrested a relative of the runner-up in Nigeria’s presidential elections as well as the candidate’s lawyer, sources said on Monday.

Alhaji Babalele Abdullahi, a son-in-law to Atiku Abubakar who was defeated in the February 23 polls, “is being investigated over an alleged case of money laundering,” an official at the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) said, speaking under condition of anonymity. 

“The sum involved is 150 million euros ($169 million),” he claimed. 

Abdullahi, who was also director of finance for Abubakar’s presidential campaign, was arrested at his home in the capital Abuja on Saturday, the source said. 

Meanwhile, Abubakar’s lawyer, Uyi Osagie, was arrested on February 18 by the EFCC, who raided his home in Lagos and found sums of cash, said Boladele Adekoya, a spokesperson for Abubakar’s campaign.

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“It is part of an orchestrated campaign to intimidate Atiku Abubakar,” Adekoya charged. 

The agency said he was being investigated but did not confirm his detention or give details about any charges.

In a statement posted on his Twitter page, Abubakar said his son-in-law and lawyer were “paying the price for supporting me.”

“I urge those now persecuting them to remember that a government’s mandate is to pursue peace and justice for all, and not just those who support them,” he added. 

The arrests come on the heels of a tense election that saw President Muhammadu Buhari re-elected for a second term. 

Abubakar refused to concede defeat after the result was announced last Wednesday, denouncing the vote as a “sham election” and vowing to challenge it in court. 

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His Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) has accused the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) of vote-rigging and “widespread manipulation” in the elections.  

Nigeria’s electoral body delayed the vote by a week, just hours before polls were to open on February 16.

The Independent National Electoral Commission blamed the delay on logistical challenges, yet both parties criticised the decision, warning of attempts to rig the vote. 

The rescheduled election saw Buhari win comfortably, gaining 15.2 million votes (56 percent) to Abubakar’s 11.2 million (41 percent). 

Observers said the vote outcome was credible although it was marred by violence, including 53 deaths, according to the Situation Room, an umbrella group of more than 70 civil society groups that monitored polling. 

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There were also widespread reports of intimidation of voters and election officials. 

Voters will be called out again on Saturday, for governorship and state assembly elections. 

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