Thursday, July 9, 2020

I’m under probe, says Jonathan, ex-President’s cousin faces trial

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The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission will on Tuesday (today) arraign Mr. Azibaola Robert, a cousin of former President Goodluck Jonathan, for allegedly receiving a $40m contract from the former National Security Adviser, Col. Sambo Dasuki (retd.).

The businessman’s arraignment will come up a day after Jonathan admitted that he was being investigated by the President Muhammadu Buhari’s government for unknown allegations.

A source at the anti-graft agency told The PUNCH on Monday that Robert would be charged with fraud.

“We have concluded investigations into Robert’s case and the contract he received from Dasuki. He will be arraigned before a Federal High Court in Abuja on Tuesday alongside his wife,” he said.

The EFCC had, on March 23, 2016, arrested Robert, who is the Managing Director of Kakatar Engineering Company Limited, and an Executive Director of the company, Mr. Dakoru Atukpa, over a $40m pipeline contract they received from the Office of the NSA.

The arrest of Robert and Atukpa was sequel to a list sent to the EFCC by a committee, set up by the Federal Government, to probe contracts awarded by the ONSA from 2011 to 2015.

The panel indicted more than 300 companies and prominent citizens, including serving and retired officers of the Nigerian Armed Forces.

The suspects were said to have diverted $40m public funds through Oneplus Holdings, a sister company of Kakatar Construction and Engineering Company Limited.

The EFCC spokesman, Mr. Wilson Uwujaren, had said the arrest of Robert was not a witch-hunt but part of investigations into the arms scam.

He added that the suspects had failed to prove that the contract was legitimate.

The commission had asked the suspects to show proof of work done, including receipts of payments made to third parties from the proceeds of the said contract, or in the alternative, return the $40m to government coffers.

In his response, Robert had, in a statement by his lawyer, Mr. Gordy Uche, admitted receiving a $40m contract from the embattled Dasuki.

He had, however, insisted that the Federal Government still owed him $4m, adding that his detention was a witch-hunt because he was a blood relative of Jonathan.

All attempts to get an official reaction from the EFCC regarding Jonathan’s claim that he was being investigated proved abortive on Monday as the spokesman for the agency, Mr. Wilson Uwujaren, did not return the calls by The PUNCH on Monday.

A reliable source at the agency, however, told one of our correspondents that Jonathan was a person of interest, adding that there was no intention to arrest the ex-President yet.

The source admitted that Jonathan’s government was already under probe since key players of his administration, including ex-ministers and former military chiefs, were either under probe or were facing trial.

He said, “All prominent persons who has been arrested, including Sambo Dasuki; Olisa Metuh (PDP ex-National Publicity Secretary) and Robert Azibaola (Jonathan’s cousin) have all claimed to have received money based on Jonathan’s approval.

“So, automatically, Jonathan is a person of interest in our investigations and his government is under probe.

“However, there is no plan as of now to arrest him. Whether we will invite him or not depends on the outcome of investigations.”

Meanwhile, Jonathan has said he is aware that he is under investigation by anti-corruption agencies in the country.

The former President said this on Monday during a live interview on Bloomberg Television after delivering a speech at the London’s studios of the media organisation.

Jonathan, who was introduced at the ceremony by the former United Kingdom Minister for Africa, Mark Simmonds, spoke on his achievements during his five-year presidency.

Though the President did not identify the allegations against him, he however, believed that after the investigation, “all stories would be properly chronicled.”

He said, “Of course, obviously, I will be investigated. I am being investigated. Yes, investigations are going on.

“I wouldn’t want to make certain comments, because when a government is working, it is not proper for the immediate past President to make certain statements. I will allow the government to do the work it is supposed to do. I wouldn’t want to make serious comments on that.

“After all the investigations, all the stories would be properly chronicled. I wouldn’t want to say this or that. It is not a good practice.”

Jonathan also stated that the Buhari administration did not tell the nation the truth by claiming that the latter inherited an empty treasury when it assumed office in May last year.

He said, “That is not true, there is no way he would have inherited an empty treasury and at the same time, gave a bailout to the states. Nigeria has a fairly robust economy but sometimes, we over-politicise certain issues and make things look so bad, but it was not that bad.”

The ex-President argued that the issue of corruption did not evolve during his administration, saying successive governments had always alleged that the previous administrations were corrupt.

Jonathan added, “At independence, we had the First Republic and there was a military intervention. What the military officers said was corruption. When we had the Second Republic, it was the same story. When the Second Republic collapsed, what the military officers said was that it was because of corruption.

“So, if there is a major change in government, where one political party is taking over power from another one, there must be issues that will be raised. Yes, I cannot say that the country from the beginning of our independence has not had corruption. Yes, there was corruption and I did very well also to curtail corruption.”

But the Presidency said it had nothing to add to Buhari’s statement made last year that he inherited virtually an empty treasury from the Jonathan administration.

The Special Adviser to the President on Media and Publicity, Mr. Femi Adesina, said this in an interview with one of our correspondents on Monday.

Adesina was asked to react to a statement credited to Jonathan that there was no truth in Buhari’s claim.

“Nothing to add to what the President said then, about meeting a virtually empty treasury,” the presidential spokesman simply said.

Buhari had while meeting State House correspondents on June 22, 2015, said he inherited a country with virtually an empty treasury from his predecessor.

He also claimed that the country bequeathed him was also being weighed down by debts running into millions of dollars.

Some of his achievements, as outlined by Jonathan during his speech in London on Monday, included his famous conceding of defeat to Buhari, his opponent in the 2015 presidential election; the establishment of 12 federal universities; and Nigeria’s mediation role in Niger, Mali, Guinea Bissau and Cote d’Ivoire.

Other achievements, he added, were job creation for youths, reduction in corruption in agriculture financing and reform in the petroleum subsidy regime, which he alleged was not allowed to work by political interference.

He also pledged his commitment to transparency and deepening of democracy across the continent.

Jonathan added, “Our ambition was to sanitise the corruption in petroleum subsidies by completely deregulating the sector. However, our efforts were frustrated by unhealthy political resistance.

“Consolidating democracy and the effective war against graft should be the collective responsibility of all citizens. I would like to emphasise my ongoing commitment to good governance, effective stewardship and transparency.

“For Nigeria to further develop and progress, we need peace, freedom and unity.

‘‘These values need to be deeply, strongly and irreversibly entrenched in Nigeria for all time.”

The former President also believed that Nigeria would grow to a level where religious or tribal factor would no longer determine who governed the country.

“Our new Bill of Rights must therefore amend our constitution to criminalise discrimination of Nigerian citizens residing in any part of the country based on their place of origin.

“Indigenes and residents must pay the same amount for school fees and social services all over the county,” he added.

He said the greatest components the country could invest in are the people, adding that when all things might fail or dry up, the people would remain to build the society.

Jonathan stated, “Rather than spending money on resources that will run out, we should be investing it in people who are the key constant elements in the socio-economic transformation of society.

“Nigeria is projected to have a population that will surpass that of the United States of America by the year 2050. But if we have not invested in our people, then we will not be ready to manage.

“Our money must go towards providing education for all, because we know that once our citizens are educated, they have futures.

“Those futures lead to safer cities, stable economies, and more businesses. When a young person does not have access to education, their future is jeopardised and statistics show that they may be prone to antisocial and criminal activities.”

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