Peter Obi, who has also served two terms as governor – in his case in the eastern Anambra state, does not hide his huge wealth, which he said is in banking and importation of various goods built up in Nigeria.
Dubbed “Mr. Clean” by his followers for being the rare Nigerian politician without being accused of embezzling public funds, he surprised many when his name appeared in 2021 on Pandora Papers. It was the release of nearly 12 million documents that revealed hidden wealth, tax evasion and in some cases money laundering by some of the world’s richest and most powerful people.
Nigeria’s Premium Times, one of the newspapers that worked on the Pandora Papers investigation, alleged the documents showed that in 2010, when Mr. Obi was Anambra governor, he set up a company, named after his daughter, in the British Virgin Islands to help him avoid tax.
Making use of a tax haven is not illegal, though setting up foreign bank accounts when serving as a public officer is not allowed.
The Premium Times said this showed Mr. Obi had failed to declare his assets, and it also alleged that he had failed to resign from the UK-registered company Next International, of which he was director when he became governor – engaging in private business, which is not allowed for public officers. His resignation was registered 14 months into his term.
The 61-year-old has never been charged over any of the revelations.
Mr. Obi told the newsmen an impeachment trial had investigated the allegations surrounding his business affairs in 2006 and found he had acted within the law.
He added that he had established a blind trust to oversee his business arrangements, including the family’s offshore holdings. “A blind trust is allowed within the law,” he said.
Mr. Obi has also been accused of a conflict of interest after investing $20m of state funds while governor in a brewery, in which his family hold shares through Next.
He denies the allegations, saying the investment greatly benefited Anambra over the years.
There has also been criticism that Anambra invested in Fidelity Bank, where he was once chairman.
“Anambra state invested in Fidelity Bank, where I have interests, because it is a public quoted company,” he told the correspondents, dismissing any suggestion that any of the revelations about his finances cast doubt about his fitness for office.