ABUJA (Reuters) - Nigeria has accused 300 firms and individuals, including army officers, of embezzling 48 billion naira ($241.45 million) through overpaid defence contracts or fraud, the presidency said on Thursday in a widening a crackdown on graft.
President Muhammadu Buhari was elected a year ago on a pledge to root out endemic corruption that has held most of the 180 million Nigerians in poverty despite the country's enormous oil wealth.
The former military ruler has fired or investigated dozens of officials serving under his predecessor, Goodluck Jonathan, and ordered an audit of key government bodies such as state oil firm NNPC.
"A committee set up to probe contracts awarded by the Office of the National Security Adviser from 2011 to 2015 has indicted more than 300 companies and prominent citizens including serving and retired officers of the armed forces," the presidency said in a statement.
[READ: Impact of corruption on Nigeria's economy]
The companies and individuals, some of which were listed in the statement, had repaid more than 7 billion naira to the state and were expected to return a further 41 billion naira, the statement said.
"Several contractors were apparently overpaid, while others were given full upfront payments contrary to their contract terms and agreements in force," it said.
Another firm had been given 7.9 million euros ($8.83 million) and $7.09 million in overpaid contracts, according to the statement.
One of those indicted was Sambo Dasuki, Jonathan's security adviser, the first former official put on trial for graft.
A similar committee has accused Dasuki of fraud involving $68 million of defence spending, part of a wider $2.1 billion in arms deals that are under scrutiny. He has denied the charges.
Jonathan's supporters deny that corruption spiked during his presidency and say Buhari is conducting a witch-hunt against members of the former president's People's Democratic Party.
($1 = 198.8000 naira)
($1 = 0.8948 euros)
(Reporting by Felix Onuah and Ulf Laessing; Editing by Tom Brown and Peter Cooney)