In Nigeria, tensions rise in Kano Kingdom as king faces finance corruption charges

King Sanusi II of Kano Kingdom sits on his throne in the palace, Kano state, Nigeria, September 2016. The king now faces serious allegations of financial corruption and misuse. Photo by DonCamillo via Wikimedia Commons: CC BY-SA 4.0.

An atmosphere of gloom settled over the ancient city of Kano in northern Nigeria, as the Kano State Public Complaints and Anti-Corruption Commission investigated King Muhammad Sanusi II, the Emir of Kano Kingdom, for financial scandals that date back to 2017:

King Sanusi II of Kano Kingdom in northern Nigeria. Photo by Baaballiyo via Wikimedia Commons, March 2017, CC BY SA 4.0.

“As a government instituted agency, we [started] investigating these accusations since 2017 to date. We are still in the process. Code 9 promulgated by the Kano House of Assembly grants us the mandate to investigate all institutions under Kano State government. And Kano Palace is among others,” Muhuyi Magaji Rimin Gado, chairman of the commission, told Global Voices in an interview on May 30, 2019.

The Kingdom dates back to the year 999 as one of Nigeria’s largest kingdoms and exists within modern Kano State under the jurisdiction of state Governor Abdullahi Umar Ganduje.

Ganduje has been at odds with King Sanusi II and made the controversial decision to break up the historic kingdom into five sub-domains, undermining the king's power.

The commission investigated King Sanusi II and three others — his palace chief of staff, Mannir Sanusi, finance officer, Mujtaba Abba and bookkeeper Sani Kwaru — for blowing nearly 3.4 billion Nigerian Naira (approximately $9,456,920 United States Dollars) since King Sanusi II's coronation in 2014.

The commission released a report dated May 31 with five specific allegations lodged against the palace over misuse of funds between 2014-2017: They awarded illegal contracts to 21 shell companies; spent 117 million Naira to fuel generators ($325,481 USD); 54 million Naira expended on airtime and data ($150,210 USD); 105 million to an individual account ($292,075 USD); and 144 million Naira on hotel accommodation and flight tickets ($400,542 USD).

“…It is regrettable, and we further [see] that seven among these companies are not certified with the government,”  Muhuyi Magaji said.

Based on these findings, the commission recommended the suspension of King Sanusi II and “all other suspects connected to this case … pending the final outcome of the investigation.”

When Global Voices asked if the commission’s investigation into the king’s financial misdealing was a form of political prejudice, Muhuyi said this was a “false and mischievous accusation.” According to him, a few concerned individuals discovered the financial wrong-doing in Kano Palace and reported the king in 2017 — during that time, no hostility existed yet between the government and King Sanusi II.

Twitter user Abubakar A. Ibrahim disagrees:

Immunity for governors

Ironically, Governor Ganduje himself is the subject of financial scandals, but Section 308 of the Nigerian Constitution restrains the commission from investigating the governor.

Yet, video footage circulating online shows Ganduje allegedly collecting a bribe from state contractors in 2018. Ganduje adamantly denied it.

Muhuyi Magaji says these were unsubstantiated rumors that only circulated online and were never brought to the commission, and even it was brought forward, they do not have the legal authority to review the governor’s actions:

Governor Ganduje is masked by the immunity of section 308 of the Nigerian constitution, which rules out the prosecute of top political office holders in a court of law until their term expires.

Former Governor Ibrahim Shekarau created Kano State Public Complaints and Anti-Corruption Commission in 2005. The Kano State House of Assembly endorsed the law that established it.

Kano Kingdom: ‘We will keep silent’

On Friday, May 31, 2019, Global Voices headed to Kano Kingdom palace mid-morning, seeking comment on allegations leveled at the king as well as the other three suspected of wrongdoing.

The palace was crowded with followers who come to offer their allegiance to the king every Friday.

Global Voices secured a meeting with Chief of Staff Mannir Sanusi and passed through guards and other auxiliary forces to speak with the palace official inside the palace grounds, who said:

On behalf of the Emir, and the entire Kano palace, we will not recount. We are going back to court on June 13. And thus, we hold that we will keep silent.

On June 7, the palace issued a brief statement on behalf of the king, claiming he only inherited 1.8 billion Naira ($5,006,406) when anointed in 2014.

In another recent development, Aliko Dongote, an international businessman from Kano, along with Governor Kayode Fayemi of Ekiti State, has initiated a peace talk between Governor Ganduje and King Sanusi II. Details of the meeting have not been revealed.

Now, Kano citizens and the international community anxiously await the June 13 trial, when the courts will decide the fate of the historical Kingdom of Kano.

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