Fact-Check: Did Gowon steal "half of CBN" as British lawmaker Tugendhat claimed?

Tom Tugendhat, a member of the British parliament, alleged that Nigeria's former military head of state, General Yakubu Gowon, stole half of Nigeria’s central bank when he moved to the United Kingdom on exile after his overthrow in July 1975.

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Tugendhat made the allegation on Monday, November 23, when the British lawmakers debated a petition calling for sanctions against Nigeran government officials allegedly involved in human rights abuses amid the #EndSARS protests.

The lawmaker's accusation against Gowon dominated Nigeria's social media space, especially Twitter, on Tuesday, November 24, as Nigerians expressed diverse views on the claim.

Did Gowon really loot half of the CBN as Tugendhat claimed?

PM News fact-checked the claim and provided some historical background regarding Gowon's administration and his exile in the UK.

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According to the news media, Gowon at about 32 years old, emerged Nigeria's military head of state in July 1966.

After ruling the country for about nine years until he was overthrown through another military coup in 1975.

Gowon was away from Nigeria was when he was overthrown. Specifically, he was in Uganda for an Organization of African Unity summit meeting when the coup that brought General Murtala Ramat Mohammed to power happened.

Trip to the United Kingdom

PM News notes that his wife, Victoria had travelled to the UK several days earlier for holiday.

Thus it was inevitable that when Gowon was overthrown, his most reasonable destination would be the UK where his wife was at the time.

Gowon had also earlier spent some times in England, according to the report.

After military training in Ghana, he had studied in the elite military school in Sandhurst, between 1955 and 1956.

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He also attended Staff College, Camberley, UK (1962) as well as the Joint Staff College, Latimer in 1965.

Gowon became the head of a battalion in 1966, the position he was when Nigeria experienced its first military coup in January 1966, with General Aguiyi Ironsi becoming the first head of state.

He was subsequently chosen to succeed Ironsi who was ousted through a counter-coup.

Gowon's military regime

Gowon ruled Nigerian through nine rocky years which featured the Nigerian civil war between 1967 and 1970.

He subsequently promised a return to civil rule in 1974 but reneged on this. Also, he adjudged to have failed in his promise to combat corruption.

The former military leader also reportedly supported one of his ministers, Joseph Tarka, who was accused of corruption. Tarka was eventually forced to resign.

However, there was no proof that Gowon corruptly enriched himself, the newspaper stated, adding that he only failed in other departments of governance.

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The coup plotters who pushed him out did not nail him for corruption.

Even the probes of public officers, instituted by Murtala Muhammed, Gowon’s successor did not indict him.

Gowon's sins according to Murtala Muhammed

When Muhammed gave his first speech as head of state and tried to justify why Gowon was overthrown, he only mentioned three key factors for the coup.

He accused Gowon of inaccessibility, insensitivity and ignoring advice. He did not accuse him of corruption.

The late military leader also did not mention anything about looting the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN).

However, it was reported that there were many cases of corrupt practices by those who worked for him which was unearthed by General Muhammed's probes, leading to asset seizures.

Conclusion

PM News concludes in its report that there is no proof whatsoever that Gowon stole half of the Central Bank while in office as the British lawmaker claimed.

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Meanwhile, Legit.ng previously reported that General Gowon revealed that corruption is the reason the administration of President Muhammadu Buhari is having problems.

The former head of state made this disclosure at the Northern Nigeria Stakeholders’ Town Hall Engagement at Arewa House in Kaduna.

Gowon noted that deterioration of the quality of infrastructure, healthcare delivery among others in the country was due to corruption.

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