As more important persons are being fingered in the $2.1 billion arms deal scandal, there are concerns about the way the drama is unfolding
| By Olu Ojewale | Jan 25, 2016 @ 01:00 GMT |
THE unfolding drama over the alleged diversion of $2.1 billion arms procurement fund by Sambo Dasuki, a retired colonel and former national security adviser, is not likely to end soon. In the past few days, the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, has arrested a number of Nigerian politicians and some prominent names have also propped up as being beneficiaries of the fund. Most of those mentioned and arrested so far are members of the opposition Peoples Democratic Party, PDP. This has generally generated controversy and allegations of political vendetta.
But whichever political divide anyone belongs, there is no controversy that money changed hands and those who got the money were not arms dealers and neither were they asked to use the money to procure arms for the military fighting against Boko Haram insurgency in the North-East. Their main task, it has come to light, was to prosecute political war that would give former President Goodluck Jonathan another four years in office.
Invariably, that was not to be. Hence, many of those in the past administration that were involved have now been asked to explain how security votes meant for prosecuting war against Boko Haram insurgence in the North-East got into their private pockets.
Prominent among those who have had their days with the EFCC are Haliru Muhammed Bello, acting chairman of board of trustees of the PDP, Attahiru Bafarawa, former governor of Sokoto State; Bashir Yuguda, a former minister of state for Finance; Shauibu Salisu, a former director of Finance and Administration in the office of the NSA; Raymond Dokpesi, founder Daar Communications Plc, and others are already having their days in court. Nevertheless, one of the unfolding dramas is that of Olisa Metuh, national publicity secretary of the PDP, who allegedly got N400 million from the fund. Metuh, it is believed in several quarters, got himself into the mess because of his voracious attacks on the ruling All Progressives Congress, APC, and President Muhammadu Buhari. The party also believes so.
But what has been incontrovertible is that Metuh himself was reported to have admitted that he received money for an assignment he carried out for former President Goodluck Jonathan. Metuh, on Tuesday, January 12, was reported to have allegedly tore up the statement he made to the EFCC when he was asked to sign it. But Emeka Etiaba, SAN, his Lawyer dismissed the allegation as untrue. “It is part of the blackmail EFCC has against Metuh. We have gone to court today. He has been charged. He wrote a statement and signed it and it is before the court now. Did they not report that he collected N1.4billion. Check the charge sheet. The Charge sheet has no such figure”, Etiaba told Realnews on phone on Friday, January 15.
Indeed, Metuh, had on Tuesday, December 15, 2015, denied that he had ever received money from the government. He had then raised the alarm of an alleged plot by the federal government to implicate him in the investigation of alleged diversion of $2.1 billion arms purchase into presidential campaign.
Metuh said he collected money from Jonathan “to carry out some assignment relating to my office and which he (Jonathan) duly funded.” He said that his major offence must have been because he is the national spokesman for the PDP. “In the last seven months, as opposition spokesperson, I have been hounded, harassed, intimidated and threatened severally. In order to avoid personal and family pressure, I had refrained from bringing them to the public domain,” he said, adding that the government was desperately looking for a way to silence him.
Against the background that Metuh allegedly destroyed his statement to the EFCC, Charles Akabogu, a lawyer based in Lagos, said Metuh acted “like drowning man clinging to every available straw to survive.”
The lawyer presumed that Metuh could have told the EFCC official that he wanted to make additional statement and used the opportunity to collect back the statement. It could also be that having made the statement he did not sign it and was asked to do so to authenticate it but he destroyed it. “It is the same procedure that applies at the police station. Since he is literate nobody would have written the statement for him. He must have written the statement himself,” the lawyer said. The question is if he had written the statement why would he want to destroy? Did he write the statement under duress and having realised that it will be used against him decided to tear it? There is something fishy which Realnews is yet to clarify because Metuh allegedly has not spoken about the torn statement and an attempt to get his lawyer to react failed.
However, Akabogu described Metuh’s alleged action as “a smart but a negative move. Now, it would be difficult for the EFCC to make a case against him that he actually collected money from Dasuki. If he is taken to court, the court would now depend on his oral statement unless the paper he tore could still be presented in court.” He said the onus would now be on the EFCC to prove its case against Metuh.
Nevertheless, Akagogu believes that the PDP spokesman could also be charged for criminal offence for destroying the evidence.
As if that is not serious enough, Metuh was also said to have declined to refund the money, according to Ibrahim Magu, acting chairman of the EFCC, hence his continued detention by the commission.
Metuh, who has been in the EFCC custody since Tuesday, January 5, without trial, on Thursday, January 14, went to an Abuja High Court to force the EFCC to release him from its custody. But the matter was adjourned to January 20, to allow the anti-graft agency to defend itself in the matter. On Friday, January 15, a Federal Court in Abuja, ordered that Metuh should be detained in Kuje Prison, near Abuja. The court’s order came after the Metuh’s oral bail was denied.
It could be argued that the continued detention of Metuh has been self-inflicted. This is because Jafaru Isa, a retired brigadier-general and close associate of President Muhammadu Buhari, was similarly arrested on Wednesday, January 6, but after being interrogated for about eight hours, he regained his freedom.
The anti-graft organisation said that Isa, a former military governor of Kaduna State and chieftain of the ruling All Progressives Congress, APC, was released after he returned N100 million out of the N170million he collected from Dasuki. Magu disclosed that he gave a promissory note to pay the balance within two weeks.
Ever since the scandal broke into public domain, the unfolding drama appears to be unending. Each day the media continue to dish out more information about who collected what and what the money was being used for.
On interrogation, Tony Anenih, a former chairman of the BoT of the PDP, was said to have admitted to the anti-graft agency that he collected N260 million from the ONSA. And that the funds were to mobilise some organisations for the 2015 elections. Anenih claimed to have given N63 million to Tanko Yakassai, chairman of the Northern Elders Council, NEC, to mobilise the group for the 2015 elections.
But Yakassai, an elder statesman, said that he only received N53 million from Anenih on behalf of the group to visit all the traditional rulers in the 19 northern states and other stakeholders in order to douse the tension before the conduct of the 2015 general elections.
Similarly, Olu Falae, former minister of Finance and national chairman of the Social Democratic Party, SDP, admitted that he collected N100million from Anenih to mobilise his supporters for Jonathan. Falae said he did not know whether the money was from arms procurement funds or not.
The elder statesman insisted that he would not refund the money. He said: “We can’t refund any money to anybody because the money we got as a party came because of the alliance we had with the PDP and we have the agreement note from this alliance.
“If it is possible that the money Chief Anenih gave us was from the arms deal, it is left for them to ask Chief Anenih to clarify. As far as we knew, we did not have any dealing with Dasuki.”
Also on Monday, January 11, Jim Nwobodo, a former governor of old Anambra State, denied ever collecting any money directly from Dasuki. Nwobodo, who claimed that he had never met Dasuki in person all his life, said he had also sent details how he disbursed the N100 million he received from Adamu Mu’azu, former national chairman of the PDP, to the party.
Besides, he said contrary to allegations that he collected N500 million, he claimed that he received only N100 million. “I got N100million for campaign purposes and not N500million. I did not receive the money from either Dasuki or (Bashir) Yuguda,” he said.
Understandably, Yakassai has faulted the anti-corruption efforts of the President Muhammadu Buhari administration, saying it had so far centred on Dasuki and the PDP stalwarts.
He said rhetorically: “Should the fight against corruption begin and end with Dasuki? Is he the only “corrupt” person? Till today, they have not even started his case in the court. He was granted bail twice and they refused to let him go. This is not a fight against corruption. It is a propaganda fight.”
Apparently disturbed by the whole messy disclosures and accusations, Abdulahi Jalo, deputy national publicity secretary of the PDP, appealed to former President Jonathan to come out and clear the air and tell Nigerians whether he authorised the sharing of the money meant to fight insurgency in the country.
“I’m from the North-East and I know the terrible security situation our people are facing there. The money was meant to fight Boko Haram, and we all know that you can’t rule without peace. Now darkness has given way for the light,” Jalo said.
He also said that those who took part in the sharing of the money should refund it.
Perhaps, considering the number of its members being investigated for the diverted funds, the PDP has disowned Jalo, saying he did not speak for the party on the issue.
Whatever, Matthew Ashimolowo, a senior pastor of the Kingsway International Christian Centre, KICC, has warned President Buhari to expend only 20 percent of governance time on tackling corruption, “otherwise, it will take forever for majority of Nigerians to see changes.”
Ashimolowo advised the president to adopt Parento’s Principle, which means that the federal government should dedicate 20 percent of its resources to going after perceived looters, while 80 percent should be given to creating an enabling environment for Nigerians.
Be that as it may, Onyekachi Ubani, human rights lawyer, believes that the government is on course with its anti-graft war. “We have not seen the president showing any bias. Don’t forget that the PDP was in power for 16 years and they had access to all government funds. So, if the PDP members are those being investigated and accused of corruption let them go to court and clear themselves. That is why the courts are there. Nobody is being persecuted here because he belongs to another party,” Ubani said.
Femi Adesina, special adviser to the president on media and publicity, in an interview, has insisted that the government’s corruption war would not be based on party affiliation. Adesina further said defecting from the PDP to the APC was not enough to save any corrupt politician from being investigated and prosecuted if found culpable.
In apparent reference to Nwobodo, a former minister of Sports, who was recently implicated in the $2.1 billion arms scandal, the president’s spokesman said that politicians accused of corruption from other political parties who moved to the ruling APC would not be immune from being investigated and prosecuted.
“It is not in the nature of this administration to cover anyone who has questions to answer on corruption, irrespective of party affiliation,” Adesina said, explaining that the release of Isa, another person being investigated by the EFCC in the $2.1 billion arms scam, had nothing to do with former governor’s relationship with the president.
List of those who allegedly benefitted from the $2.1 billion arms procurement fund:
Peter Odili (N100m);
Rashidi Ladoja (N100m),
Attahiru Bafarawa (N100m),
Mahmud Aliyu Shinkafi (N100m),
Jim Nwobodo (N500m Or N100m).
Tony Anenih (N260m);
Ahmadu Ali, former national chairman of the PDP (N100m);
Bode George (N100m/$30,000),
Yerima Abdullahi (N100m);
Olu Falae (N100m);
Tanko Yakassai (N63m);
Bello Sarkin Yaki, a retired general (N200m);
Raymond Dokpesi, (N2.1 billion)
Iyorchia Ayu’s company (N345m);
BAM Properties (N300m);
Dalhatu Investment Limited (N1.5b);
ACACIA Holdings (N600m);
Bashir Yuguda (N1,950,000)
Mohammed Bello Haliru (ex-PDP National Chairman), Abba Mohammed, Sagir Attahiru, Serving and former members of the House of Representatives
(more than N600 million):
Bello Matawalle, former chairman of the House of Representatives on security and intelligence, (N300m);
And many companies.