Dayo Oketola, Olusola Fabiyi, Kamarudeen Ogundele, Eniola Akinkuotu, Ade Adesomoju, Gbenro Adeoye and Jesusegun Alagbe
The pan-Yoruba socio-cultural organisation, Afenifere; a Second Republic lawmaker, Dr. Junaid Mohammed; and the Committee for the Defence of Human Rights, among others, came down heavily on the Federal Government over the release of a looters’ list containing just six names.
They described the list as laughable while accusing the government and the All Progressives Congress of spreading propaganda and lies.
The Federal Government on Friday made good its promise to release to Nigerians the list containing names of alleged treasury looters.
The list which was released by the Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, in Lagos, on Friday, identified the Chairman of the Peoples Democratic Party, Prince Uche Secondus; former National Publicity Secretary of the PDP, Chief Olisa Metuh; and the Chairman of DAAR Communications, Dr. Raymond Dokpesi, as some of the people who looted the treasury.
Also on the list were the names of Dudafa Waripamo-Owei, a former Senior Special Assistant to President Goodluck Jonathan; a cousin of former President Jonathan, Robert Azibaola; and an unnamed former PDP Financial Secretary.
In July 2017, the Attorney General of the Federation, Mr. Abubakar Malami (SAN), said the Federal Government would publish the names of treasury looters intermittently after it must have met some conditions.
This was after a Federal High Court in Lagos gave a ruling compelling the Federal Government to “immediately release to Nigerians information about the names of high-ranking public officials from whom public funds were recovered and the circumstances under which funds were recovered, as well as the exact amount of funds recovered from each public official.”
The Federal Government, through The Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, had on June 4, 2016, disclosed that it had recovered cash sums of N78,325,354,631.82, $185,119,584.61, £3,508,355.46 and €11,250, among others, between May 29, 2015, and May 25, 2016.
Twenty-two months after, the information minister released a list with six names.
The information minister said, “The PDP has challenged us to name the looters under their watch. They said they did not loot the treasury. Well, I am sure they know that the treasury was looted dry under their watch. Yet they decided to grandstand. This shows the hollowness of their apology to Nigerians.
“Let’s just give them a teaser with this list: PDP Chairman, Uche Secondus, (on the 19th of February, 2015, he took N200m only from the office of the then National Security Adviser); the then PDP Financial Secretary (on the 24th of October, 2014, he took N600m only from the office of the then NSA); the then National Publicity Secretary, Olisah Metuh, (on trial for collecting N1.4bn from the office of the then NSA.
“Dr. Raymond Dokpesi, Chairman of DAAR Communications, (on trial for taking N2.1bn from the office of the then NSA); former SSA to President Goodluck Jonathan, Dudafa Waripamo-Owei, (on trial over N830m kept in accounts of four different companies); former President Jonathan’s cousin, Robert Azibaola, (on Thursday, a Federal High Court ruled that he has a case to answer for collecting $40m from the office of the then NSA.)”
Mohammed, who stated that the list was just a tip of the iceberg, said, “We did not make these cases up. Many of these cases are in court and the records are available. Some of the people on this list are seeking plea bargain, and that is a fact.
“We insist that Nigeria was looted blind under the watch of the PDP, and that the starting point in tendering an apology is for them to return the loot. It’s like a robber admitting to stealing your car and apologising, but then saying he will keep the car anyway. It doesn’t work that way.”
The information minister described the PDP as a hypocrite, saying, “The PDP is a hypocrite. And that reminds me of what English writer, William Hazlitt, said, ‘’The only vice that cannot be forgiven is hypocrisy. The repentance of a hypocrite is itself hypocrisy.’’
He vowed that the All Progressives Congress-led Federal Government would not stop talking about the massive looting under the PDP.
“They brought Nigeria to this sorry pass. We are now looking around for loans to build infrastructure, and they ask us not to talk about it. We will talk about it,” Mohammed added.
But the National Publicity Secretary of Afenifere, Yinka Odumakin, accused the Federal Government of spreading propaganda and playing politics with the matter, even though, he said it would be good for Nigeria to get to a point where people found to have stolen public funds were named and shamed.
“We should get to a point where we should have a culture of naming and shaming of those who pilfer funds but what Mohammed and the government are doing is very funny. They have been talking about fighting corruption and recovering money, so after three years, it is only six names they could bring out. And even then by our law, an accused person is presumed innocent until found guilty. For now, you can call them alleged looters, not looters because the court has yet to convict them.”
Odumakin also noted that none of the politicians in the current government or those who defected from other parties to the APC and have been accused of corruption was on the list.
He said, “All they are doing is just playing cheap politics with their so-called anti-corruption war; the truth is that there is no war going on anywhere. It is just propaganda. And a minister of the government should not be engaged in this type of shenanigan. The APC can be playing this kind of politics but it is too low for the government to be playing this kind of politics.”
Also, a Second Republic lawmaker, Dr. Junaid Mohammed, described the APC’s short list of names of alleged looters as an “anticlimax” after about three years of talking about fighting corruption and looting of public funds.
He said, “I think Mohammed, his party and the President are guilty of the lies that they have been telling Nigerians. If indeed all the noise that has been made concerns only about five people, then something is wrong and I am certainly disappointed. So you are telling me that for the three years that you have been talking about corruption and promising to release the names of looters, you have been talking about only five people.
“If indeed they only had evidence that there are about five people who are responsible for our economic woes, then that to me sounds like a monumental anti-climax. There are quite a number of people who I believe are thieves and there is a substantial and overwhelming evidence against them and I believe the money they stole is known to people in the Presidency, the government and the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission. If they cannot recover the money, then forget about Nigeria, it is finished. And I don’t believe Lai Mohammed because he has lied so many times and if his own idea of politics is to abuse his position and lie to the people, then we are in a very serious trouble because the whole thing is cynical, untrue and you begin to wonder who is to be believed because this government is not believable.”
Similarly, the President, Ijaw Youth Council, Mr. Eric Omare, described the government’s action as “ridiculous and childish.”
“This is because, under the laws of this country, anybody that is accused of committing an offence is presumed to be innocent until the person is found guilty by the court of law. So when you say somebody is a looter, it is a pronouncement that the person is guilty.
“And none of the names on the list has been convicted. Even this week, Azibaola was cleared of most of the charges against him by the court. So how could you release the name of that person as a looter? So it simply shows that the anti-corruption war of Buhari’s government is failing and so, it’s just struggling to save its face. It didn’t meet the expectation of Nigerians and that list should be dismissed with a wave of the hand; it doesn’t make sense.”
Also, the President, Committee for the Defence of Human Rights, Malachy Ugwummadu, described the list as an insult on the intelligence of Nigerians.
He said if the Federal Government was serious about total anti-corruption war, it should also “look inwards” and name ex-PDP chieftains who were now in the APC.
Furthermore, he said conviction and prosecution of looters were the real proof of any anti-corruption fight.
On whether it was right for the Federal Government to have named persons whose corruption cases were already in court, Ugwummadu described it as an issue that was neither “here nor there”.
He said, “If the persons listed view it as name-dropping, they could sue for defamation; justification is the total defence to defamation. But I think what happened was that the Federal Government succumbed to pressure in releasing the list.
“What is important for the Federal Government to make Nigerians think it is serious about anti-corruption war is if it looks inwards and name those alleged of corruption who defected from the PDP to the APC.”
We’re not looters, say Dudafa, Azibaola
Dudafa, whose name was on the looters’ list and who is currently standing trial before a Federal High Court in Lagos, pleaded not guilty to all the charges preferred against him by the EFCC.
The former Presidential aide said everything he did was under the instruction of President Jonathan and his wife.
He said, “I was the Special Assistant to the President on Domestic Affairs and I received instructions from my boss. I never had powers to give instructions but I could relay instructions to aides in the Presidency, including Festus and Peter.
“I relayed instructions from the former president and his wife to the aides. Several instructions were given, including the one involving money but they were all relayed on behalf of the former President and his wife.
“I was the only one that had access to the bedroom of the former President and if he gave me instructions, I had to carry them out. The physical handing over of the money was done by me; though, I was relaying an instruction.”
Azibaola, whose name was also on the list, pleaded not guilty to money laundering charges involving the sum of $40m which he was accused of receiving fraudulently from the Office of the NSA in 2014. His wife is also facing trial with him.
Their counsel, Chief Chris Uche (SAN), had, however, denied the charges on their behalf while arguing their no-case submission before the Federal High Court in Abuja on March 16, 2018.
Uche insisted while arguing the no-case submission that the sum of $40m was paid to his clients from a legitimate source with all the due process followed.
The trial judge, Justice Nnamdi Dimgba, on Thursday, upheld the no-case submission in part by striking out seven of the nine amended charges instituted against the defendants by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission.
The judge also discharged and acquitted Azibaola’s wife of the two remaining charges.
The judge ordered Azibaola and his company, One Plus Nigeria Limited, to enter their defence against the two remaining charges on June 4.
The PDP Chairman asked Mohammed to be ready to prove his allegation that he (Secondus) took N200m from the office of the former NSA.
He said the plan of the minister was to damage his reputation and tarnish the ongoing rebuilding of the main opposition party.
Secondus, in a statement by his Media Aide, Mr. Ike Abonyi, said that the plan of the minister would fail.
The statement said, “The attention of the National Chairman of the Peoples Democratic Party, Prince Uche Secondus, has been drawn to a press conference addressed by the Minister of Information, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, claiming that the national chairman collected N200m from the purse of the National Security Adviser.
“Secondus is challenging Mr. Mohammed to be ready to establish his allegations in court immediately.
“The agenda of the minister is to damage his reputation and distract him from serving his party but he has failed woefully.
“For the purposes of some gullible public, Prince Secondus never collected any money from the NSA under any guise.”
APC has spirit of vengeance, PDP replies Presidency
The PDP had before the list was released, accused the Presidency and the APC of having the spirit of bitterness and vengeance, adding that such was responsible for the economic dryness, divisiveness and hostility in the nation under their watch.
The PDP, therefore, advised the Presidency to direct its demand for refund of stolen funds to President Buhari and the APC, alleging that those responsible for looting were now in the APC, where they were enjoying the protection of the President.
The PDP National Publicity Secretary, Mr. Kola Ologbondiyan, in a statement in Abuja on Friday, said the APC and the Presidency had been trying to transfer their vile spirit of vengeance to Nigerians, as manifested in their refusal to let go, even after the citizens had accepted PDP’s apology, which was made in the overall interest of national healing, renewal and reconciliation. He said, “The Presidency and the APC do not have the spirit of forgiveness. They believe that they must take revenge on everything.
“This is why they are going about hounding everybody perceived to hold opinions that are contrary to their interest.
“This explains why they have continued to keep people like the former National Security Adviser, Col. Sambo Dasuki (retd.), in detention, even after he has been granted bail by the courts.”
Ologbondiyan, in another statement on Friday, dismissed the list of alleged looters, saying it only showed that the Presidency and the APC had no proof of corruption against the members of the PDP.
He described the list as an extension of the Federal Government’s media trial and challenged it to come up with names of members the PDP against whom convictions had been secured.
He said that the list put forward by the Federal Government as purported looters amounts to “a cheap blackmail as none of those listed have been indicted or convicted by any court of competent jurisdiction or any panel of enquiry in our country.”