Zamfara State Governor Dauda Lawal was the victim of an elaborate scheme that saw him lose ownership of a private jet worth $6.3 million to a crafty pair of aviation business executives in Lagos.

It was learnt through documents and sources that Mr Lawal has been silent about the fraud because he feared raising it with Nigerian authorities would trigger suspicion about how he managed to heap over $6 million on a personal aircraft in the first place.

He was a banker at First Bank of Nigeria Plc when he bought the plane, which he secretly registered under the name of a couple running a jet-leasing venture at Murtala Muhammad International Airport, Lagos, The Gazette learnt.

The husband, Ovi Osazele, changed ownership of the jet to his own name after parting ways with his wife, Gloria Osazele, and fleeing to the United States, leaving Mr Lawal in limbo.

Mr Lawal’s ordeal began in 2014 when he moved to buy the plane by paying Jet Leasing Support Services Ltd, a firm run by the now-estrange couple that purportedly handled fleet management and aircraft acquisition and services for high-net-worth individuals.

It was gathered that Mr Lawal, elected governor in 2023, concealed the purchase under the couple’s name because he knew his legitimate earnings as a First Bank official were significantly below the multimillion-dollar deal. He paid Jet Leasing a $250,000 broker fee to hold the title of the jet and manage its use for him, The Gazette learnt.

“The governor refused to report the matter because it would raise questions about how he got the money,” a source close to Mr Lawal said.

The arrangement, however, turned sour after Ms Osazele discovered in 2015 that her husband had changed the jet’s ownership to his name. She claimed she made several attempts to recover the jet for Mr Lawal, but a source familiar with the matter said Mr Lawal believed she was in on the same. The couple had a nasty fallout that ended in divorce in 2020.

Ms Osazele fled Nigeria to Canada shortly after the divorce and told authorities there that her ex-husband was trying to kill her because of their disagreement over Mr Lawal’s private jet.

She accused her husband of sending Black Axe cult members to make an attempt on her life, leading her to seek asylum in Canada. However, Canadian asylum officers rejected her application for asylum because it was replete with inconsistent and outright false submissions.

Notwithstanding, a judicial review of her application overturned the decision to deny her asylum and remanded the matter to another asylum officer for a fresh evaluation. This decision, which came in May, would allow Ms Osazele to linger in Canada for a few more years while her case is reprocessed.

Even though Ms Osazele told Canadian authorities the jet was later returned to Mr Lawal, sources close to the governor said it was not returned, and the governor was still trying to get hold of the couple.

“They both disappeared and no one could tell us their whereabouts,” a source close to the governor said. “She lied that she returned the jet.”

Mr Lawal was identified as one of Diezani Allison-Madueke’s top allies, particularly in the former petroleum minister’s multibillion-dollar money-laundering scandal that made headlines in Nigeria, the United States and the UK. He tried to retrieve $40 million from over $153 million forfeited by Ms Allison-Madueke to the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) in 2017.

Mr Lawal’s name was repeatedly mentioned in several charges stacked against Ms Alison-Madueke and was invited on several occasions by the anti-graft commission to clarify his role, or lack thereof, in the alleged fraud.

He denied all allegations of helping Ms Allison-Madueke hide stolen public funds and insisted their relationship was purely “professional.”

According to a statement in 2016, Mr Lawal said all Nigerian banks were eager to establish a rapport with Ms Alison-Madueke, who was petroleum minister between 2010 and 2015, implicitly suggesting that First Bank was no exception among businesses that sought favours from the infamous ex-minister.

Mr Lawal resigned from First Bank to successfully seek elected office in Zamfara’s 2023 governorship election under the Peoples Democratic Party, facing and denying accusations by political opponents that he was a money-launderer.