By Ikechukwu Nnochiri & Omeiza Ajayi
ABUJA—The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, yesterday, continued its arrest of high profile politicians and top military officers over the $2bn arms contract allegedly disbursed by the Office of National Security Adviser, ONSA.
Suspects arrested, yesterday, included the former Chairman of the Presidential Implementation Committee on Marine Safety, Air Vice Marshal Salihu Atawodi.
Atawodi was accused of alleged diversion of N600 million meant for acquisition of military boats for the use of the Nigerian armed forces.
Others who are already being detained in connection with the arms deal include former National Security Adviser, Col. Sambo Dasuki; Chairman Emeritus of Daar Communications, High Chief Raymond Dokpesi, former governor of Sokoto State, Attahiru Bafarawa and former Minister of State for Finance, Bashir Yuguda.
Chief Dokpesi reportedly told EFCC interrogators that the N2.1bn he collected from the NSA was meant for election publicity in media houses across the country, a disclosure strongly discountenanced by media operatives yesterday.
Atawodi was said to have awarded the contract for the boats and fully paid for them while none was supplied at the end of the day, thereby making Nigeria lose the funds.
According to a competent source in the EFCC, Atawodi, who recently retired from the Air Force, was arrested Wednesday and taken into EFCC custody for questioning.
The former fighter pilot, the source claimed, is likely to be charged with conspiracy, abuse of public office and misappropriation of public funds.
He awarded the contract to one Alhaji Rabiu’s Hypertech Nigeria Limited. The contractor was fully paid but the boats were never supplied.
The source further disclosed that the contract award process violated the Procurement Act.
AVM Atawodi who has been on the radar of the anti-graft agency since 2013, was quizzed for several hours on Wednesday, December 2, 2015, after he responded to the invitation extended to him. He arrived EFCC headquarters at about 11am.
EFCC spokesman, Wilson Uwujaren confirmed Atawodi’s presence at the Commission, adding that he is assisting the investigation.
At press time, the retired Air Force officer was still with operatives of the commission.
His arrest added to the increasing number of high profile Nigerian politicians and top military officers implicated in the diversion of defence budget, which the Buhari administration has sworn to unearth and punish.
Arrests one-sided, says PDP
The Peoples Democratic Party, which was in power when the alleged diversion of huge funds occurred, has, however, kicked against the attempt to bring these men to justice, describing the move as politically motivated and one-sided.
I implicated nobody — Dasuki
Meanwhile, embattled former National Security Adviser, NSA, Col. Sambo Dasuki, rtd, yesterday, refuted reports that he implicated many persons, including stalwarts of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, in the statement he volunteered before the panel probing his alleged complicity in the $2billion arms purchase deal.
Speaking through his lawyer, Mr. Ahmed Raji, SAN, yesterday, Dasuki, said he never made any statement or implicated anyone or group at the Economic & Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, even as he wondered where the reports emanated from.
Raji said: “I was with Dasuki yesterday (Wednesday) and wish to make categorical statement that my client never made any statement of such nature or naming anybody or group in any statement.
“Quote me anywhere, Dasuki has not done anything like that. It is absolutely untrue. It is the figment of the imagination of the authors aimed at creating falsehood for reasons best known to them and Nigerians should disregard them.
“They are just out to scandalise the man, bring his image and character into disrepute so that his friends and well wishers can run away from him. They want him deserted and that will fail”, he added.
Court rules on Dasuki’s bail Dec 8
Meantime, Justice Ademola Adeniyi of the Federal High Court in Abuja, yesterday, fixed December 8 to deliver ruling on an application by the federal government, seeking to revoke Dasuki’s bail.
FG had in the application it filed pursuant to Section 169 of the Administration of Criminal Justice Act, 2015, also sought an order committing the former NSA to prison pending his trial.
Already, the Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Mr. Abubakar Malami, SAN, has contracted a private prosecutor, Mr. Oladipupo Opeseyitan, SAN, to handle the case for government.
Opeseyitan who announced his appearance at the resumed hearing on the matter yesterday, told trial Justice Adeniyi that he has gone before the court of appeal to challenge the ruling that permitted Dasuki to travel to the United Kingdom for medical treatment.
He said that he has also filed a motion for stay of execution of the ruling, even as he urged the high court to put the ruling on hold pending determination of the appeal.
Responding, Dasuki’s lawyer, Raji, told the court that he was only served a copy of the motion yesterday morning, saying he would need time to reply accordingly.
It will be recalled that though Dasuki was on September 1, granted bail by the high court on self recognition, however, trial Justice Ademola Adeniyi, on November 3, while granting the defendant leave to travel abroad for medical treatment, varied his bail condition.
Justice Adeniyi ordered the erstwhile NSA to produce a surety that must be ready to face prosecution should he (Dasuki), go into hiding after his medical treatment in the United Kingdom.
The court further directed the release of his hitherto seized traveling documents, saying Dasuki should return same to the Deputy Chief Registrar, Litigation of the high court within 72 hours of his return from the three-week medical trip.
It was this order that government asked the court to vacate by revoking the bail granted to the defendant.
On why the bail should be revoked, FG, told the court that Dasuki is undergoing investigation by the committee auditing procurement of arms/equipment in the Armed Forces and Defence Sector from 2007 to date.
It said that an interim report of the committee showed that over $2 billion was allegedly embezzled and that Dasuki’s presence is required to assist in further investigations.
“That there is a Federal Government directive for the arrest of all those indicted by the report, including the defendant (Dasuki) and that the ongoing investigation which borders on money laundering against the defendant has not been concluded and there is fear that investigation might be tampered with on account of foreign visit by the respondent before the completion of investigation.
It maintained that the ailment for which permission was given to Dasuki to travel to the United Kingdom for treatment can be properly treated in the National Hospital, Abuja and other teaching hospitals in Nigeria.
Besides, FG, told the court that there is an intelligence report that Dasuki has concluded plans to take advantage of the court order releasing his international passport to escape justice and tamper with ongoing investigations.
Despite the permission of the court, FG, using operatives of the Department of State Service, DSS, prevented Dasuki from travelling outside the country.
He was subsequently arrested and handed over to the EFCC for interrogation over the alleged $2bn arms deal fraud.
I didn’t receive a dime from Dasuki— Bafarawa
In a related development, former Governor of Sokoto State, Attahiru Bafarawa who is also being being held by the anti-graft commission in connection with the arms deal money has denied receiving any money from Dasuki. He was said to have collected about N4.6 billion from the Office of the National Security Adviser, for “spiritual purposes”.
An aide of the former governor who served under him as a Special Adviser on Youth and Students Matters, Alhaji Akibu Dalhatu said yesterday that his boss had no such financial dealing with the former NSA nor did he collect any money from him for any purpose.
“The former governor of Sokoto state, Alhaji Attahiru Bafarawa did not receive any money from Col. Sambo Dasuki for any arms deal or for any purpose” Dalhatu said.
Dalhatu who said he had visited the former governor at the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) headquarters, added that his boss was never arrested at home or anywhere else as alleged in some quarters saying Bafarawa merely honoured an invitation extended to him by the anti-graft agency.
“The truth is that Governor Bafarawa went to the EFCC to honour an invitation made to him by the agency while he was abroad. He had informed them through a letter by his lawyers that he was abroad and would honour their invitation on return. Governor Bafarawa went to the office of EFCC with his lawyer and an aide” he said.