Top aide of Nigeria's First Lady held for alleged fraud

Aisha Buhari (File: AFP)
Aisha Buhari (File: AFP)

A top security aide of Nigeria's First Lady has been arrested for allegedly dropping her name to extort almost $7m from people, in a test case for President Muhammadu Buhari's fight against graft.

Police chief superintendent Sani Baban-Inna, the chief security officer (ADC) to Aisha Buhari since 2016, was detained by police on Friday but is now in the custody of the country's intelligence agency, the DSS.

Aisha, who is currently on a trip with her husband at the UN General Assembly in New York, said in a statement late on Tuesday that she had not ordered his arrest.

"The story as it pertains to her ADC, Chief Superintendent of Police (CSP) Sani Baban-Inna has it that he has been detained on the orders of Her Excellency for dropping her name and defrauding unsuspecting officials and associates," the First Lady's office said.

"She wishes to use this opportunity to refute such allegation and to state that she has no hand in his arrest and detention."

She also denied sending her security officer, or any other staff, "to collect any favours on her behalf or on behalf of her children and will never do so".

Baban-Inna is accused of extorting $6.9m.

Aisha called for anyone defrauded through "extortion by name-dropping" to get their money back and expressed dismay that Baban-Inna allegedly "used the opportunity to defraud unsuspecting associates and officials as initial investigations have shown".

Independent online newspaper Premium Times earlier reported that the First Lady instigated the security officer's arrest after accusing him of collecting the money on her behalf from associates.

Baban-Inna denied the allegations and was said to have initially been cleared by police.

But Aisha Buhari was not satisfied with the police investigation, the paper reported, and asked intelligence officers to take over the case.

The scandal involving a close aide of the wife of the president is seen as a test for Buhari's impartiality in his avowed fight against graft.

The administration has been accused of targeting only opposition figures since he came to power in 2015.

The 75-year-old retired general who headed a military regime in the 1980s, is seeking re-election in February, amid concerns about his failing health, poor performance and a myriad of security problems wracking the nation.

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