By Clifford Ndujihe, Victor Ahiuma-Young, Dapo Akinrefon & Charles Kumolu
LAGOS — FORMER President Goodluck Ebele Jonathan has said that it was impossible for his former National Security Adviser, NSA, Sambo Dasuki, to have stolen $2.1 billion as being alleged by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC.
Responding to questions after his lecture on Youth Entrepreneurship at the famous Oxford Union in the United Kingdom, Dr Jonathan said: “They said the National Security Adviser (Sambo Dasuki) stole $2.1 billion. I don’t believe somebody can just steal $2.1 billion. We bought warships, we bought aircraft, we bought lots of weapons for the army and so on and so forth and you are still saying 2.1 billion; so where did we get the money to buy all those things?
“Yes, there were some issues. Yes, there are still corruption issues but some of it were overblown; I’d say exaggerated and they give a very bad impression about our nation. You cannot say the National Security Adviser stole $2.1 billion. It is not just possible.”
To avoid sounding confrontational with the President Muhammadu Buhari government, Dr. Jonathan said some of the graft cases were still in court, that legal processes should rather be allowed to reveal the facts of the matter.
He said: “One thing about the issue of corruption is that these matters are in court, let’s allow some of these processes to end. Lately, some judges’ (homes) were also invaded. There are so many things involved and we have to follow up these matters to conclusion before we know the facts.
“I don’t want to be seen as a former president challenging what the sitting government is doing. So I have decided to keep quiet for the court to look into them.”
He said allegations of corruption were not unique to his administration or the country, adding: “You will see that it has become a major topic whenever there is a change of government …. I am not saying there is no corruption in Nigeria, there is corruption. If you look at corruption, there is almost no country that is free. The degree varies, the perception varies. Transparency International talks about the way corruption is being perceived in different economies. Why do we talk about the way corruption is being perceived? It depends on the issue raised in the media every day.”
Dr Jonathan’s comments elicited mixed views in the polity with some challenging him to offer more details, and others calling on the EFCC to invite him for questioning.
Jonathan should give detailed explanation – TUC
Trade Union Congress of Nigeria, TUC, said what the former president said over the controversial arms money was different from information available to Nigerians, especially through the media.
Acting Secretary General of TUC, Simeso Amachree, contended that Dr. Jonathan was being economical with words, saying: “From information at our disposal, especially from the media, the former president is being economical with words. It is a matter that should be thoroughly investigated. Everybody involved should be invited for questioning and all efforts should be made to recover the money. Nobody should be spared.
“We are keeping watch on the development and we are insisting that every kobo should be recovered. If the need arises, the former president should be invited to explain how the money was spent. The money does not belong to him. It belongs to the nation and now that the country is in recession, the money would do a lot of good. He should be invited to explain what happened to the money since it was under his watch that the money either got missing or was diverted.”
Buhari, Jonathan should clear discrepancies in hand-over notes — Ajaero
On his part, factional President of Nigeria Labour Congress, NLC, Mr. Joe Ajaero, called on President Buhari and former President Jonathan to sit down and harmonize any discrepancy in the handover notes, especially as it affects the controversial arms money.
“It was an election that brought President Buhari to power, not a military coup. There was a hand-over note and if there are discrepancies in the hand-over note, there should be harmonization. If the money was neither stolen nor diverted, the former president should tell us what happened to the money. Like I said, there was hand-over note and if the hand-over note contains discrepancies, President Buhari has been meeting Dr. Jonathan since the hand over. They should do proper harmonization for the country to move forward. It should not be a question of who wins or who loses. The interest of the country should be paramount.”
EFCC should invite Jonathan – Ubani
Second Vice President of Nigerian Bar Association, NBA, Mr. Monday Ubani, said: “That is why some of us are of the opinion that if some of Jonathan’s men have been mentioned in the course of investigation, the best thing for the EFCC to do is invite him to come and make useful statements. Since he is saying that Dasuki did not commit the offence, he can be invited to say all he knows to the authorities. Exonerating his aides, who have been mentioned, will not help the situation. I don’t believe in witch-hunting anybody, if there is evidence, accused people can be investigated with a view to establishing the truth. Instead of making such a statement, he should allow the security agencies to do their investigation. For him to exonerate anyone at this time is not good; he should keep quiet and allow the security agencies do their job.”
Jonathan should provide evidence to support his claims – Tsav
Retired Police Commissioner, Alhaji Abubarkar Tsav said: “What the former President should do is to provide evidence to show that the equipment was purchased. It is not for him to just say that they were bought. He should provide verifiable evidence to support what he has said. I am sure that if the DSS had seen evidence that the money was spent on those things he mentioned, they would not have arrested Sambo Dasuki. If it were in other countries, they would have invited Jonathan to make statements that would help them in prosecuting the case. Without evidence, whatever he is saying is rubbish.”
I don’t take him seriously – Igbokwe, Lagos APC spokesman
Publicity Secretary of the All Progressives Congress, APC, Lagos State, Mr Joe Igbokwe, faulted the former president, saying he should not be taken seriously.
Igbokwe said: “Jonathan thinks that former heads of state do not go to jail; he should go and read history. All these things that went on during his tenure, are supposed to be on his table because all bucks stopped at his table. He is supposed to be the one that should be held responsible but because other heads of state are pleading for him, that is why he is busy junketing all over the place. He is busy talking all over the place and people are taking him seriously. I do not take him seriously.”
He has expressed his opinion – Akitoye, ex-PDP scribe
Former acting Secretary of the PDP, Chief Remi Akitoye, said Jonathan merely expressed his opinion but called on security agencies to investigate the matter.
“That is his opinion, it is now left for the security operatives to find out if it is true or false. We have a mechanism to find these things out. So, if he says it is not true, it is left for the security operatives to investigate and find otherwise,” he said.
His statement is evasive, ambiguous – Anyadubalu
A lawyer, Mr Patrick Anyadubalu said: “The statement of former President Jonathan is evasive and ambiguous. In law, such evasive denial is taken as admission. It could be interpreted to mean that Dasuki stole money but did not steal up to $2.2 billion since he bought aircraft, weapons, etc, it could also mean that Dasuki did not steal money.
“We are witnesses to some persons who have admitted that they received huge sums of money from Dasuki for personal purposes because campaigning for election is not a state business for which state money should be used. We heard about a person who was ready to return N400 million he was given. We have read of a former minister who said he gave part of the money he took to a serving governor. We need to emphasise that stealing is stealing, no matter the amount.
“Having said that, the onus is still on the Federal Government to charge Dasuki to court to prove the case against him using these witnesses. It is only the court that can convict. In the eye of the law, Dasuki remains innocent.”