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Nigerian Spy Chief Caught With $43 Million in Cash Is Suspended

Just slightly suspicious.

By , a diplomacy and national security reporter at Foreign Policy.
cash crop

File this one under “oops.” The head of Nigeria’s spy agency had $43 million of cash just lying around in one of his apartments.

Anti-corruption investigators became suspicious of Ayo Oke, head of Nigeria’s National Intelligence Agency, after a tip-off that a “haggard” looking woman wearing “dirty clothes” kept taking bags in and out of his seventh-story apartment in Lagos. So, on April 12, they raided his apartment and stumbled onto the mother lode. In the four-bedroom apartment, they found “neatly arranged” stacks of $43 million in U.S. dollars, sealed and hidden in various wardrobes and cabinets. They also found $36,000 worth of British pounds and $75,000 worth of Nigerian naira.

Nigeria’s anti-corruption body, the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, said it suspected the funds were linked to unlawful activities. Oke has’t yet made a public statement, but unnamed intelligence sources told local media there’s nothing to see here, and the cash was just being held for covert operations.

File this one under “oops.” The head of Nigeria’s spy agency had $43 million of cash just lying around in one of his apartments.

Anti-corruption investigators became suspicious of Ayo Oke, head of Nigeria’s National Intelligence Agency, after a tip-off that a “haggard” looking woman wearing “dirty clothes” kept taking bags in and out of his seventh-story apartment in Lagos. So, on April 12, they raided his apartment and stumbled onto the mother lode. In the four-bedroom apartment, they found “neatly arranged” stacks of $43 million in U.S. dollars, sealed and hidden in various wardrobes and cabinets. They also found $36,000 worth of British pounds and $75,000 worth of Nigerian naira.

Nigeria’s anti-corruption body, the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, said it suspected the funds were linked to unlawful activities. Oke has’t yet made a public statement, but unnamed intelligence sources told local media there’s nothing to see here, and the cash was just being held for covert operations.

Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari isn’t buying it, and has suspended Oke pending an investigation. Vice President Yemi Osinbajo will head the investigation and report back to Buhari with findings in two weeks.

Buhari campaigned on rooting out corruption but has struggled to make good on those promises since taking office in 2015. (It’s an issue that has plagued Nigeria for decades, particularly the country’s corruption-addled oil sector.)

The country’s anti-corruption body has uncovered a slew of cash bundles linked to government graft in recent months, thanks in part to a new policy that entitles whistleblowers to a small cut of any misused public funds recovered.

Photo credit: Joe Raedle/Getty Images

Robbie Gramer is a diplomacy and national security reporter at Foreign Policy. Twitter: @RobbieGramer

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