LAGOS, Nigeria (Reuters) | Nigerian anti-graft police have seized about $630,000 raised at a gala dinner in support of Barack Obama‘s U.S. presidential campaign, authorities said on Sunday.
While the fundraising was not illegal in Nigeria, it is illegal under U.S. law for foreign campaign groups to donate funds to American political parties. Mr. Obama’s campaign said it was in no way affiliated with “Africans for Obama” and would not accept funds from the group.
Ndi Okereke-Onyiuke, chairwoman of the “Africans for Obama” campaign group and head of the Nigerian Stock Exchange, organized the fundraiser in Lagos on Aug. 11. A “platinum” ticket for a table of eight cost $21,226.
The huge amount raised from the dinner sparked widespread public outrage in Africa’s top oil producer, where the majority live on less than $2 a day, prompting the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) to launch an investigation.
The EFCC “has taken custody of the funds realized from the controversial Africans for Obama dinner/concert and will soon work out modalities on how to share the money among those who paid to participate in the event,” said a formal statement issued by the agency.
It said it had seized $629,834 raised at the dinner and cautioned Mrs. Okereke-Onyiuke to “steer clear” of such activities in the future.
“The outcome of investigations, however, revealed that the sale of tickets at the event does not constitute any known offense for her prosecution under the Nigerian law,” it said.
Mrs. Okereke-Onyiuke published a full-page statement in Nigeria’s Guardian newspaper on Aug. 21 saying the dinner had never been intended to raise funds or solicit donations for Mr. Obama, but to sensitize and mobilize Africans worldwide.
The idea of a man with an African father attaining the world’s most powerful political office has fueled “Obama-mania” across Africa over the past year, and Nigeria, the continent’s most populous nation, is no exception.
Buses and cars in the crowded streets of Lagos carry “Obama ‘08” bumper stickers, while militants in the oil-producing Niger Delta have even called on the U.S. Democratic presidential candidate to mediate in their conflict.