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Nigerian President Owns Five Homes, but Lives a ‘Spartan Lifestyle’

After running on an anti-corruption campaign, Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari made his assets public this week.

Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari disembarks upon arrival at the Waterkloof Military air base in Pretoria, on June 13, 2015 for the 25th African Union Summit held in Johannesburg. Despite growing pressure to address the tragedy of African migrants drowning in the Mediterranean, the African Union is unlikely to offer any home-grown solutions to the crisis, say analysts. AFP PHOTO/MUJAHID SAFODIEN        (Photo credit should read MUJAHID SAFODIEN/AFP/Getty Images)
Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari disembarks upon arrival at the Waterkloof Military air base in Pretoria, on June 13, 2015 for the 25th African Union Summit held in Johannesburg. Despite growing pressure to address the tragedy of African migrants drowning in the Mediterranean, the African Union is unlikely to offer any home-grown solutions to the crisis, say analysts. AFP PHOTO/MUJAHID SAFODIEN (Photo credit should read MUJAHID SAFODIEN/AFP/Getty Images)

When Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari won a landmark election in March, he did so largely by advertising himself as a force against the corruption that plagues his country’s government. And the former military ruler made good on his promises for transparency when he and his vice president, Yemi Osinbajo, declared their assets publicly this week.

According to his spokesperson, Buhari has $150,000 in a bank account and shares in three companies. He also owns five homes, two mud huts, an orchard, and farmland where he keeps 270 cattle, 25 sheep, five horses, and a variety of birds. His spokesman said Thursday that this public declaration is proof the president lives a “Spartan lifestyle.”

Buhari’s $150,000 might be pocket change to Nigeria’s wealthy — there are more than 9,000 millionaires in the city of Lagos alone. But to the estimated 60 percent of Nigerians living in poverty and the 1 million who have fled their homes due to the Boko Haram insurgency in the country’s northeast, five houses is far from “Spartan.”

Buhari’s announcement Thursday came amid criticism he has spent close to 100 days in office and has still not named his Cabinet. But experts close to the Nigerian government told Foreign Policy his delay seems to be a genuine indication of just how serious he is about rooting out corruption from the top down.

Admittedly, Buhari’s relative wealth pales in comparison to Osinbajo’s, who was a lawyer before becoming vice president. He declared this week he owns multiple homes and has multiple bank accounts, which hold around $1.4 million.

But both of their assets are a tiny fraction of what other government officials are alleged to have stolen from the country’s purse. In August, Buhari appointed a team to investigate just how much is missing due to corruption. He thinks it could be upwards of $150 billion over the past decade alone.

MUJAHID SAFODIEN/AFP/Getty Images

Correction, Sept. 4, 2015: President Muhammadu Buhari has not declared any properties in the United Kingdom. An earlier version of this story mistakenly said that he did.

Siobhán O’Grady is a freelance journalist working across sub-Saharan Africa. She previously worked as a staff writer at Foreign Policy. @siobhan_ogrady

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