The All Progressives Congress (APC) has accused the presidency of being economical with the truth in its response to the widespread condemnation of President Goodluck Jonathan for hobnobbing with accused Boko Haram sponsor Ali Modu Sheriff.
In a statement issued in Dubai on Friday by its National Publicity Secretary, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, the party said the presidency’s stout defence of Sheriff’s presence at President Jonathan’s meeting with host President Idris Deby of Chad, and the fact that the presidency’s statement was coordinated with the one by Sheriff’s spokesman, has shown that the APC is right to have called for the trial of Sheriff and other alleged Boko Haram sponsors by the International Criminal Court (ICC), instead of the Nigerian security agencies which are under the Jonathan spell.
It said President Jonathan has not got the liver to investigate and prosecute the accused, who are his friends, adding: ”How can you prosecute a person who accompanies you on a high level security meeting to a foreign head of state?”
”The presidency said the security agencies are investigating Sheriff and that the President will not interfere, but what message was the President sending to the security agencies by circulating the picture of the accused with himself? Is that a subtle message to the security agencies that the accused is a friend of the President hence he is untouchable?
”The presidency said Sheriff has a long standing business in Chad.
Is the presidency not aware of the memo sent home by the Nigerian Defence Adviser in Chad concerning Sheriff? Why didn’t the presidency tell Nigerians whether or not the investigation recommended by the Defence Adviser over Sheriff’s alleged sponsorship of Boko Haram was ever carried out, and if so what was the outcome? APC queried.
It insisted that President Jonathan exhibited palpable indiscretion by allowing himself to be photographed with an accused terrorism sponsor while on a foreign trip to rally support for his country’s anti-terrorism efforts.
”It is really irrelevant whether or not the President took Sheriff along to Chad or he met him there.
What matters and what the entire world saw, through the picture that was widely circulated, was that Sheriff sat in with President Jonathan and President Deby at their meeting. That was the clincher.
”The presidency, in its reaction to the global condemnation of the President’s unholy alliance with an alleged Boko Haram sponsor, should have realized that while President Jonathan has definitely subjected Nigerians to the most harrowing experience, they are not stupid yet.
”Why would the President even allow Sheriff into the venue of his meeting with President Deby? Can anyone just go and be sitting with President Jonathan in a meeting with the Chadian President just because the fellow happens to be in the Chadian capital at the time?. What happened to security clearance, protocol etc.?
”Is the presidency telling Nigerians that if President Jonathan were visiting the South African President Jacob Zuma, and Atiku Abubakar, who is well known to be a good friend of President Zuma, also happens to be in Pretoria at the same time, he will simply drive up to the venue and be part of the meeting?
The truth is that President Jonathan was wrong to have showcased Sheriff, an accused Boko Haram sponsor, as a face of his Administration while on a foreign trip to rally support against terrorism, unless of course the President wanted to send a subtle signal to those investigating the allegation,” APC said
Modu Sheriff was not part of Jonathan’s delegation to Chad – Abati.
The Presidency yesterday said that contrary to Media Reports and the accusation by the All Progressive Congress, the former governor of Borno State, Ali Modu Sheriff was not part of the president’s delegation to Ndjamena, Chad.
There has been widespread criticism of the presidency when picture of the president and Sheriff appeared in the media showing the President and the former Borno governor seated in Ndjamena, Chad where the president went to consult with the Chadian President over terrorism.
Modu Sheriff was named by Australian Negotiator, Stephen Davis as one of the sponsors of Boko Haram alongside the former Chief of Army Staff, Gen. Ihejirika prompting widespread calls from Nigerians for the investigation of the allegations by the Australian.
But addressing state House Correspondents Thursday evening, the Special Adviser to the President on Media and Publicity, Dr Reuben Abati said the president was aware of the allegations against the former Borno state governor and would not interfere with investigations.
According to Dr Abati, Senator Modu Sheriff was neither on the President’s entourage to Chad nor did he participate in any of the engagements that the president had in Chad.
Dr Abati explained that the president is fully aware of the investigation of allegations that former Borno state governor is one of the sponsors of Boko Haram insurgency and does not intend to interfere with investigations by relevant security agencies.
He explained that Modu Sherrif only joined other Nigerians living in Chad to welcome President Jonathan at the airport and the picture taken of the President with the former Borno governor which is the subject of angst of Nigerians and the opposition part was at the airport where he had come with other Nigerians to welcome the president.
The text of his statement, which he read without entertaining questions:
“We have noted with surprise, the unnecessary hue and cry raised by the All Progressives Congress (APC) and other bigoted critics of the Jonathan Administration over the claim that the President is “hobnobbing” with the former governor of Borno State, Senator Ali Modu Sheriff who was recently accused by the Australian, Stephen Davis of being one of the chief sponsors of the terrorist group, Boko Haram.
“The totally erroneous basis for that charge was the spurious claim that Senator Sheriff accompanied President Jonathan on his recent trip to Ndjamena as a member of his entourage.
“Although Senator Sheriff himself has already given the lie to that claim through his Media Adviser, the Presidency wishes to affirm, for the purpose of emphasis, that the former Borno State governor was not on President Jonathan’s delegation to Chad.
“In keeping with President Jonathan’s commitment to transparency and openness in the conduct of government business, names of the key members of his delegation were announced a day before his trip to Ndjamena.
“They included the National Security Adviser, Col. Sambo Dasuki (rtd.), the Minister of Communications Technology, Mrs. Omobola Johnson, the Minister of State for Foreign Affairs, Dr. Nurudeen Mohammed and the Director-General of National Space Research and Development Agency, Prof. Seidu Mohammed.
“As can be easily verified from the complete list of members of the Presidential entourage to Chad which was also circulated on Sunday and never changed, Senator Sheriff’s name was not on it. The only other persons on the list were the President’s aides, security personnel and journalists.
“The APC and others who rushed to condemn President Jonathan for a non-existent indiscretion would have found, if they took the least trouble to double-check, that there was absolutely no factual basis for their accusation.
“Those who associate with Senator Sheriff know that he has longstanding interests in Chad and often spends a lot of his time there. He happened to be in Ndjamena at the time of President Jonathan’s visit and joined other Nigerian residents of the Chadian capital in coming to the airport to welcome their President.
“That was the full extent of his participation in the visit and it was also at Ndjamena Airport that the pictures which formed the basis of the bogus allegation of President Jonathan hobnobbing with an “accused sponsor of terrorism” were taken.
“The former Governor’s presence in Chad was certainly not at President Jonathan’s instance and he did not participate in any of the President’s discussions with President Idriss Deby or his other engagements in Ndjamena.
“President Jonathan is fully aware of the allegation made against Senator Sheriff by Stephen Davis. That allegation is already being investigated by the security agencies who will make their findings known to the public in due course.
“The President assures all Nigerians that he has not willfully taken any action that could prejudice the outcome of that ongoing inquiry.
“He seizes this opportunity to reassure the nation once again of his total commitment to doing all within his powers to bring all identified and verified sponsors of terrorism to justice, and ending the menace of violent extremism in the country”.
The president did not take Ali Modu Sheriff to Chad and there is no plans at all to interfere with investigation of the allegations against him.