About 21 Nigerians have been identified as owners of assets in two tax haven banks worth over N117 billion.
The investigation is part of the global International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ)-led Pandora Papers project which obtained a trove of 11.9 million confidential files.
The ongoing reporting involves 600 journalists from 150 news organisations around the world.
In a report by Premium Times, the Nigerians involved reportedly had a combined treasure worth about $100 million and £77.3 million in assets, cash, bonds, equities, mutual funds and property holdings controlled by the Standard Chartered Bank in Guernsey, Jersey and the U.K, according to filings of their businesses with their offshore financial managers, Trident Trust Company (BVI) Limited, as of October 2016.
Another two owed assets worth $511,860 and £50,000 in Standard Bank, Jersey.
At the Central Bank of Nigeria’s exchange rates of N410 trading for a dollar and N558 to a British pound, this is equivalent to about N84 billion.
At the black market, the assets are worth N117 billion, with an American dollar trading for N575 and the British pound, N775.
These Nigerians involved include two former military governors, a former minister, an erstwhile presidential adviser and some of Nigeria’s leading business people.
Under Nigerian laws, it is not illegal to own offshore companies or trusts as they can be used for legitimate purposes.
However, some experts believe the arrangement is mostly used to hide assets, avoid or evade taxes or carry out criminal acts.
A trust is a fiduciary arrangement that allows a third party, known as a trustee, to hold assets on behalf of a beneficiary or beneficiaries.
Wealthy Nigerians often opt for such arrangements due to what some describe as a lack of confidence in their country’s economy, currency fluctuation, limited foreign exchange capacity, and unstable government policies. Some say the country’s tax regime is too stringent and discourages them from leaving their assets here.
The Nigerian government has been advised several times to expand the tax net and not the tax rate to plough fertile land for more local investments to thrive and discourage the huge desire for foreign currency.
Experts also said the weakness of the naira and its instability against the dollar is also another reason for some of the country’s wealthiest persons to save their money in dollars in what they considered secured jurisdictions.
Femi Owolabi, a financial analyst with Stanbic IBTC, explained that while the monies made in Nigeria are not ploughed back into the economy, the naira loses value and it rubs off on the overall economic well-being of the country.
“[Taking investments abroad] reduces the investor confidence in Nigeria which has a negative impact on the nation’s stock market and the GDP,” Muhydeen Tiamiyu, an analyst with Fortress Capital, also noted.
However, sometimes these monies could also be a conduit for unscrupulous public officials and known criminals to fret away funds through offshore companies sometimes under the guise of a service provider for local agencies or companies, according to the World Bank.
Tax havens and offshore companies also boost illicit financial flow to other jurisdictions away from the country in which the wealth is made. Between 2006 and 2015, Nigeria accounted for $8.3 billion in illicit financial flows, ranking among the top 30 nations, according to the Global Financial Integrity (GFI) report published in 2019.
These losses are what a member of the United Nations High-Level Panel on IFF (FACTI Panel), Irene Ovonji-Odida, said are responsible for fiscal deficits, regressive taxation, criminality, low public trust, and weak rule of law, among others.
The United States of America-based research and advocacy group had said IFFs bled Nigeria for as much as $157.5 billion in revenue between 2003 and 2012.
The World Bank described the lost funds as “money illegally earned, transferred, or used that crosses borders.”
There are, however, no evidence of any financial infractions on the part of these Nigerians. Yet, their huge wealth highlights the inequality of wealth distribution among Nigerians.
The combined wealth of Nigeria’s five richest men – $29.9 billion – could end extreme poverty at a national level, yet 5 million face hunger, according to Oxfam.
The Federal Inland Revenue Service (FIRS) has vowed actions to determine and punish possible tax offences following the Pandora Papers investigation.
In a statement, a spokesperson for the FIRS, Johannes Wojuola, said the service will go after people reported in the leaks and suspected to have broken the law.
“If there are any persons who are suspected to have a taxable asset by Nigerian laws among the revealed pool, the applicable processes with regards to investigation, charges, enforcement procedures … as well as prosecution for tax offences, would be enforced,” Wojuola said.
The wealthy people involved ranged from former military and civilian leaders, businesspersons and members of their families.
In each of the accounts they own, there is usually a nominee director who is a resident of tax havens and paid to sit on boards of companies to represent the interests of, and operate as a shadow of the real owners of offshore firms.
They are listed below:
Hakeem Adebayo Folawiyo and Lisa Folawiyo
The duo of Hakeem Adebayo Folawiyo and Lisa Folawiyo belong to the third generation of the Folawiyo dynasty, a wealthy family whose earlier patriarchs were popular for their wealth in the southwest of Nigeria, especially Lagos.
Hakeem is one of the two directors and a shareholder of Kinexus Data Service Limited, a Lagos-based company registered in 2016. He is also a director of Folawiyo Energy Limited.
Before it was dissolved 14 years ago, the 48-year-old business mogul served as a director at Lacemere (UK) Limited.
Lisa Folawiyo, a fashion designer, is the founder and director of Lisa Folawiyo Studio, a fashion line she founded in 2005, where she sells ready-to-wear Ankara textiles.
She was the 2012 Africa Fashion Award winner and made the Business of Fashion’s BOF500 list in 2015.
Both Folawiyos are settlors and beneficial owner of the Zayzac Trust which is in turn owed by their offshore company, Capela Holdings Limited, the investigation revealed.
The trust was, as at October 2016, worth $300 million and £2.2 million (about N1.7 billion) in cash, bonds, equities and mutual funds and property holdings and managed by Standard Chartered Trust (Jersey).
They co-own BVI company, Allendale Properties, worth $1.5 million and £2.5 million (about N2.8 billion), kept with Standard Chartered Bank Jersey.
In total, the duo has an asset worth N4.5 billion in the bank.
Harry Thakurdas Thadani and Bindu Deepak Bakshani
Thadani, a Nigeria with Indian ancestry is an industrialist who has had stints as the director of companies, including Good Food Product UK Limited, a UK-based packaging company incorporated in 2004 that has since been dissolved.
He owns a company with Bindu Deepak Bakshani, also a Nigerian but with Sri Lankan origin.
The company is Divina Holdings Limited, which was worth £1,554,000 (N593.5 million) in cash, bonds, equities and mutual funds and property holdings kept with Standard Chartered Trust (Jersey).
They also owned offshore firm Pink Coral Trading Limited which had 808, 900 pounds (about 627 million naira) investment portfolio with Standard Chartered Bank Jersey.
Gregory Friday Uanseru
The president and CEO of Greg Continental Agency (GCA) Energy Limited, Gregory Friday Uanseru, owns Heritage Group International Limited.
Standard Chartered Bank, Jersey, helped the oil magnate oversee a £2.9 million worth of property, $66.1 and £2.3 million in cash, bonds, equities and mutual funds.
Stanley Adeniyi Jegede
Jegede owned Latote Assets Limited, HG Properties Limited and Latote Trust. Through the three entities, he had assets worth $1.7 million and £1 million kept with Standard Chartered Bank in Jersey.
This means the 54-year-old chairman of Phase 3 Telecoms had about N1.8 billion worth of treasure in offshore companies.
Andrew Folorunsho Alli
Andrew Folorunso Alli has held several top positions home and abroad, which included being the CEO of Africa Finance Corporation.
He serves as the CEO of Southbridge Group, a pan-African financial advisory firm, and non-executive director at MTN Nigeria, CDC Group, a U.K. government-owned DFI and of the Development Bank of Nigeria.
The Nigerian-British was the ultimate beneficial owner of offshore firms Zigzag Africa Limited, Zigzag Trading Limited and the Zigzag Trust. The three entities held assets worth $3.9 million (approximately N2.3 billion) with Standard Chartered Bank (Jersey).
Aderemi Muyinudeen Makanjuola
The patriarch of the Makanjuolas, Aderemi Muyinudeen Makanjuola chairs the Board of Caverton Offshore Support Group, and using Bramble Offshore Limited, he had assets worth $4,000 and £3 million with the Standard Chartered Bank (Jersey).
Adeniyi Ibraheem Makanjuola, co-founded Caverton Helicopters, a subsidiary of his father’s parent company. Alongside Oludarafunmi Clarissa Makanjuola, he owned Templefield Investments Holdings Limited which kept its assets worth £9.5 million (N7.4 billion) with Standard Chartered Bank (Jersey).
Chukwudalu Udemezue Mba
The consultant in financial services has Standard Chartered Trust (Guernsey) as a trustee of the Goree Trust owned by his offshore firm, Aravale Investing Limited. The company kept £606,700 (N470.2 million) in cash, stock and bonds with Standard Chartered Bank, Jersey.
Emmanuel Chukwuma Edozien
The late economist, who served as the chief economic adviser to the late President Shehu Shagari, died in 2019, aged 82.
He owned the offshore firms: Erico Investments Limited, Larimer Holdings Limited, Mayqueen Properties Limited, Petalina Investments Limited, BEC Trust and Betemen Trust.
All assets are worth $42 million (N24.1 billion) and £2.7 million (N2.1 billion), totalling N26.2 billion in shares, bonds and property kept with Standard Chartered Bank in Jersey and London.
Anwar Manssour Jarmakani
The self-made industrial entrepreneur, who in 1963 migrated from Syria to Nigeria, where he has since been naturalised, is the founder and executive chairman of Jagal, a Nigerian conglomerate holding that deals in energy businesses and manages a diverse portfolio of investments.
Jarmakani, 72, through his Starstone Holdings Limited, had $2,300 and £8.9 million (both N6.9 billion) worth of assets which included properties. The assets were kept with Standard Chartered Bank, Jersey.
Jonathan Tunde Ogbeha
The retired general was the administrator of Akwa Ibom and the defunct Bendel States during the military era and a two-term senator for the Kogi West constituency of Kogi State.
Documents from his financial dealing said he dealt in wireless telecommunication activities. Through his BVI company, Red Devils Investments Limited, he kept $5 million, (which is some N2.8 billion) with Standard Chartered Bank, Jersey.
Jubril Adewale Tinubu, the group chief executive of Oando PLC, owns Sloane Square Limited Investment Holdings which had $4.9 million (N2.8 billion) with Standard Chartered Bank, London.
Rilwan Olakunle Tinubu
Rilwan Tinubu is CEO of Nigerian company, Trojan Estates Limited. However, through his Wren Finance Limited and The Madison Trust, he held assets worth $14,100 and £4.9 million (totalling N3.8 billion) with Standard Chartered Bank, Jersey.
Muhammad Sani Bello
The retired colonel, a former military administrator of Kano State and ex-ambassador to Zimbabwe, is the father of the incumbent Niger State Governor. He chairs Dantata and Sawoe Construction Company Limited and Mainstream Energy Solutions Limited.
In 2013, Forbes ranked him 38th among Africa’s 40 richest people with a net worth of $500 million. In today’s worth, that’s N287.5 billion.
Seventy-nine-year-old Bello owns offshore firm Sandel Holdings Limited which kept a princely $39,800,000 (N22.9 billion) treasure in cash, bonds, equities and mutual funds with Standard Chartered Bank London. The assets are managed by Standard Chartered Trust, Guernsey.
Narenda Lakhi Chukni: The Indian-Nigerian with investments in real estate management, owned BVI firm Javelin Properties Limited. He had his $3.3 million (N2.6 billion) worth of assets in Standard Chartered Bank, Jersey.
Olufemi Peter Otedola
The billionaire businessman, with interests in oil and gas and power generation, owns Hampshire Venture Property Holdings Limited, a British Virgin Island company. That company and Mr Otedola’s Fenman 2 Settlement kept $34.4 million (N19.8 billion) with Standard Chartered Bank, Jersey.
Omatseyin Akere Ayida
Ayida is CEO of Ruyat Oil Limited and board member of Mainstream Energy Solutions Limited. He is also the owner of Sunnysky Ventures Limited and the Akene Ayida Trust through which he kept $545,800 (N313.8 million) with Standard Chartered Bank, London.
The investment portfolio is managed by Standard Chartered Trust, Guernsey.
According to Trident Trust records, two other Nigerian business people: Atedo Peterside (former Chairman of Stanbic IBTC Bank) and Abayomi Aderemi Awobokun (CEO, Enyo Retail & Supply Limited) also had accounts with Standard Chartered Bank branches in Jersey and Singapore respectively. But the values of the assets are unknown.
While peterside owned ANAP Overseas Investment Limited and its associated trust, Atedo N.A. Peterside Overseas Trust, Awobokun owned offshore firm, Kun-Smata Limited and the Kun-Smata Trust.
Trident Trust’s records also showed that two other Nigerians, including a former permanent secretary, had assets at Standard Bank, Jersey, which claims to provide offshore banking for individuals, corporate organisations and high net-worth clients.
Adedoyin Adebusola Adeyinka, is managing director of Nigerian oil and gas firm, Acorn Petroleum Plc. He was also associated with CS Offshore S.A., a Panamanian shell company.
The businessman had 511, 860 dollars with Standard Bank Jersey through his Zang Worldwide Limited, a company he incorporated in the Isle of Man. Lumbro Nominees Jersey Limited is sole director of the company.
Adeyinka also owns The Phillips Trust (for which Access Trustee Company Limited serves as trustee).
Asiodu, 87, a retired permanent secretary, was special adviser on economic matters to Presidents Shehu Shagari (1983) and Olusegun Obasanjo (1999 to 2001). He was also minister for petroleum and mineral resources (1992 to 1993).
Asiodu owned the offshore company Apolina Limited and the Philip Asiodu 1992 Voluntary Settlement which he created on October 23, 1992.
The former minister told his offshore business manager that the wealth held by the Trust originated from “savings, rents from existing properties, gratuity and retirement benefits and subsequently re-investment of some dividends.”
“The UBO (ultimate beneficial owner) retired from the Nigerian Civil Service in 1975 after serving in the position of Permanent Secretary for 10 years. He then set up a company incorporated in Nigeria called Medife Limited for consultancy, feasibility studies, advisory services on mobilisation of funding for new ventures,” Trident Trust said in one document.
The trust, which had a balance of 50,000 pounds in its account as of December 12, 2016, has since been dissolved.