By JIDE AJANI, HENRY UMORU, DAPO AKINREFON & CHARLES KUMOLU
ABUJA— FORMER Minister of the Federal Capital Territory Administration, FCTA, Mallam Nasir El-Rufai, was defiant yesterday after his release, insisting that he will not stop talking.
He was arrested, Saturday evening and released by men of the Directorate of State Security, SSS, Saturday, at the Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport, Abuja, but released about 16 hours later talked tough, yesterday, saying his ordeal will not stop him from criticising the government.
El-Rufai who recounted his ordeals in the hands of security agents said he will not stop speaking on what is wrong when the need arises.
He said he has just started his critical assessment of President Goodluck Jonathan’s administration adding that he was not in any way inciting the people through his writings.
The former Minister who was arrested at the Abuja airport on arrival from London aboard a British Airways flight, told Vanguard yesterday that he was left to go home by the SSS at 9.00 am yesterday. He has, however, been instructed to report to the Directorate today.
Vanguard was told that Mallam el-Rufai was specifically asked why he chose to publish budget figures that were in all material details wrong.
In addition, Vanguard learnt that Rufai was remindedthat “he had been known to make some statements that were considered inflamatory in the past but had almost always been ignored.”
A source told Vanguard: “This time he was told in very clear and specific terms that the figures he gave out in his article were not only wrong but were intended to bring the Federal Government of Nigeria and, indeed, the intelligence community to disrepute by causing both disaffection in the estimation of members of the public.
“The published figure for the intelligence community as published by Mallam el-Rufai was N208billion. He was asked why he did it”.
Mallam el-Rufai, in his response was said to have told security agents that he had been out of the country and was yet to get the complete volume of the budget.
Vanguard further understood that Rufai was informed that he could have got the complete volumes of the budget from the National Assembly, Supreme Court, Federal Ministry of Finance; and The Presidency.
He was then given a breakdown of the figures as appropriated by the National Assembly on May 25, 2011, and signed into law by President Goodluck Jonathan on May 26 – Vanguard published the breakdown yesterday.
Vanguard was informed that Mallam Rufai was given the breakdown as follows: “the Intelligence Community got a total allocation of N109,855,099,466 (approximated to N109.855bilion) which when split was as follows: the Office of the National Security Adviser – N40,846,937,023; Directorate of State Security (that is the SSS) – N23,452,705,993; National Intelligence Agency – N27,720,580,338; and the Presidential Air Fleet –N17,834,876,113”.
Speaking with Vanguard yesterday, El-Rufai who condemned the arrest, stressed that as a Nigerian, he has the fundamental right of freedom of speech in line with the country’s constitution.
Asked what happened at the SSS office, he said: “The SSS told me that what I have been writing and saying of late have been very critical about the government and were capable of inciting Nigerians and the public against the government.
I then told them that what they said was an opinion and if it is true that I was inciting the people, the government should go to court.
“When we get to court, the government can then raise the issues and they are all there to be interpreted, then we can interprete the laws. I am a Nigerian, the constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria provides for freedom of speech.”
Meanwhile, Vanguard has learnt that based on pressures and calls for compassion, there is a very remotepossibility that he would face any form of trial for the alleged mis-information which he was said to have caused to publish.
Security sources disclosed to Vanguard that the interrogation process for Rufai was not particularly long.
His media adviser, Muyiwa Adekeye, had in a statement, Saturday, said that Mallam El Rufai was arrested because of his revelation that the National Security Adviser (NSA) was allocated N208 billion in the 2011 budget.
El-Rufai’s arrestVice presidential candidate of the Congress for Progressive Change, CPC, in the last presidential elections, Pastor Tunde Bakare, yesterday, condemned the arrest of former Minister of Federal Capital Territory, Mallam Nasir el-rufai, describing it as a ploy to repress the truth about state of the nation.
Briefing newsmen in Lagos, Bakare argued that the arrest of El-Rufai on the account of the article he wrote on the back page of a newspaper was unjust.
Bakare said: “El-Rufai was arrested 5 am by the State Security Service, SSS, and was released at 11pm. That arrest was an affront on his freedom of expression, because he was arrested on the account of what he wrote on his column. That act is unjust and an act of intimidation.”
He further noted that the arrest of former Minister of the Federal Capital Territory, FCT, was a ploy to whittle down the truth about the state of the nation.
“I went through the publication and what El-Rufai wrote was about the state of the nation. He wrote that an interesting observation is the fact that the government said the problem of power shortage is a priority, yet the Ministry of Power got N91billion as total appropriation in 2011 while the National Security Adviser(NSA) controls and will spend N208billion(recurrent_N51billion, capital_N59billion, and another N98billion for the amnesty programme,” Bakare argued.
Still quoting El-Rufai’s article, the clergyman said, “this amount does not include the Defence budget. The Defence Ministry will get N348billion, while the Police will get N309billion.
In other words, though Nigerians have never felt so insecure in recent history, the NSA, Police, and Defence will spend a combined N865billion_more than N2billion a day, weekends included! This does not include the 36 states’ so-called security vote.”
Speaking further, he asserted that “as a law abiding citizen, Mallam El-Rufai has the right to express his views about what is going on in the country. This was why he wrote his article about certain figures on the back page of Thisday.”
It will be recalled that the former Minister was arrested yesterday morning by the State Security Service (SSS) operatives at the Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport, Abuja, but was released late last night.