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Arms deal: Can Jonathan survive the pressure?


The arrest, detention and charging of some politicians to court by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) over the alleged $2.1 billion arms scandal has continued to raise dust and furor, not only in the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) but in the nation generally. Our correspondents examine some of the contentious issues.

The PDP has remained in dilemma over the arrest, detention and trial of its top leaders by the present administration of President Muhammadu Buhari.  But  some analysts agree that the PDP should expect nothing less, considering  the fact that the party was in government for 16 consecutive years, and should naturally be held for  the ‘sins’ committed during the period under review. 

The party has consistently accused Buhari’s administration of using the anti-corruption war to silence it, and ensure that the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) remains the sole party to contest and win the 2019 general elections without stiff opposition. Malam Umaru Maizabura, a former presidential aspirant of the defunct Social Democratic Party (SDP), said it would be “foolhardy” for the PDP stalwarts to cry wolf. “I don’t think we have seen anything yet…We are just talking about $2.1 billion arms deal and look at how the money was shared, the beneficiaries. “So many wrongs have been committed and this is the right time to correct the anomaly. The PDP people ate for many years without inviting anybody. They didn’t invite any opposition to join them in the feast but they are now complaining. “Buhari must arrest all those that soiled their hands in the loot, including former President Jonathan. There is no way Jonathan will escape,” Maizabura said. Despite alleged bias in arrests done so far, the EFCC can be said to have proved the PDP wrong when the anti-corruption operatives picked former military administrator of Kaduna State, a retired military officer, Ja’afaru Isa, who is also a member of the ruling APC, in connection with the arms purchase scandal. The commission confirmed on Monday, last week, that it had retrieved N100 million out of the N170 million traced to Isa’s account, and granted him administrative bail to enable him source for the balance. The Buhari-led government recently alleged that $2.1 billion meant for the purchase of arms to fight the Boko Haram insurgency in the North East and other parts of the country was diverted by former President Goodluck Jonathan’s National Security Adviser (NSA), retired Colonel Sambo Dasuki. Dasuki has been arrested and is being tried. But while his trial continues, there have been more revelations within the system, leading to the arrest of more top politicians, majority of who are from the leading opposition PDP, where Dasuki also belongs.  Former Minister of State for Finance, Bashir Yuguda and five others have been arraigned by the EFCC before Justice Peter Afen of the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) High Court, sitting in Maitama, Abuja, on a 22-count charge of conspiracy, bribery, abuse of office and criminal breach of trust (aka Dasukigate). Yuguda was charged alongside  Colonel Dasuki (rtd), Shuaibu Salisu, a former Director of Finance and Administration, NSA’s office, Attahiru Dalhatu Bafawara, a former governor of Sokoto State; Sagir Attahiru, his son and Dalhatu Investment Limited. Former PDP national chairman, and acting chairman Board of Trustees (BoT), Dr. Haliru Bello, was also arraigned together with his son, Abba and their company, BAM Projects and Properties Limited over their alleged roles in the $ 2.1 billion arms deal during the Jonathan administration. A chieftain of the party, Chief Raymond Dokpesi, was also arrested and arraigned at an Abuja High Court by the EFCC recently, while PDP national publicity secretary, Chief Olisa Metuh, has also been arrested by the EFCC over the arms scandal. Daily Trust gathered that the EFCC is making moves to arrest more PDP members in connection with the arms deal. Days ago, a former director, media and publicity of the PDP presidential campaign organization, Chief Femi Fani-Kayode said he was also targeted and listed for arrest by the EFCC, but denied receiving the sum of N1.7 billion from Jonathan. A former PDP national chairman, Alhaji Adamu Mu’azu is also reported to have been a target by the anti-graft agency. Others on the watch list, according to sources, are the  former Board of Trustees chairman of the PDP, Chief Tony Anenih, Alhaji Tanko Yakassai, Chief Olu Falae, former Oyo State governor, Rasheed Ladoja, and many more. But the PDP has added another perspective to the brouhaha, claiming that the federal government was “persecuting and not prosecuting” Dasuki, because of the 2019 general elections. The party said that the ruling APC and its leaders were afraid that Dasuki, given his vast political and security network, may be harbouring a presidential ambition, considering that the PDP has zoned its 2019 presidential ticket to the North. Before his arrest, Chief Olisa Metuh said in a statement on behalf of his party, that the APC was obviously seeking to destroy the PDP so that it could push through Buhari’s second term bid in 2019 without opposition from the PDP. However, there seems to be a sharp division within the ranks of the PDP in respect to the anti -corruption crusade. Recently the PDP deputy national publicity secretary, Abdullahi Jalo, said that he was in support of  the  arrests of PDP chieftains, stressing that if they had received monies from the office of the former NSA, they should be held accountable for their sins. Jalo, while addressing newsmen at the PDP national secretariat last week in Abuja, took many by surprise when he asked former President Goodluck Jonathan to explain his role in the $2.1 billion arms deal. The opposition’s deputy spokesman said Jonathan should explain whether he directed that the sum of $2.1 billion be released and used to purchase arms for the military to fight the Boko Haram insurgency in the North East or for PDP campaigns. He insisted that any member of the party who wished to bail any officer of the party in the EFCC net, would be doing so in his own individual capacity, adding that those who received the money did it at their own peril. “Darkness has now come to light, that some people have collected money, not just PDP, we are talking about all those who have collected money from the former National Security Adviser under the guise of campaigning for Goodluck Ebele Jonathan. Jonathan is alive, has he ever directed that money for arms should be disbursed for his campaign.  “Let us put the records straight. We want anyone of these people that has been accused whether in PDP, APGA or APC to come out and tell us the money he collected, whether he gave it to PDP or to his party. When he was giving this money, was he given it for Jonathan’s campaign?  Whoever is among them should know that this money is not meant for that, it is meant for arms purchase,” he said. Jalo’s position was, however not taken lightly as evident in the response by the PDP acting national chairman, Prince Uche Secondus. Secondus said the National Executive Committee (NEC) and the National Working Committee (NWC) had never reached any resolution that Jonathan should clear the air over the issue, saying the statement was strictly Jalo’s personal opinion and not the party’s position. Pundits believe that considering the fact that Jonathan conceded defeat during the hotly contested 2015 presidential election, he has attracted international recognition and sympathy for himself. This, according to them, will make his arraignment exceedingly dicey, despite the fact that the major suspect, Colonel Dasuki, had reportedly said that all his actions were based on the approvals he got from Jonathan. However, the EFCC boss, Mr Ibrahim Magu, has said in Lagos that no document has been traced to Jonathan giving any approval for the disbursement of the money for any purpose other than arms purchase.  He said that all those questioned so far in connection with the money were people who disbursed, or collected the money for reasons other than the purchase of arms and ammunition. “All approvals by former President Jonathan did not mention that it was for political purposes. All the memos approved by him were for the purchase of arms,” the EFCC chairman said. A legal practitioner, Barrister Ahmed Abba, said at the end of the day, the EFCC would have to invite Jonathan. “Whether we like it or not, Jonathan cannot be exonerated. This is because, there was no way he would say he was not aware that the money was shared to cronies,” he said. In defence of Metuh, his special assistant, Richard Ihediwa, said in a statement that the N400 million paid into his boss’ company’s account was for an assignment given to him by Jonathan. Similarly,  Chief Raymond Dokpesi who is also facing trial at an Abuja High Court over his alleged role in the arms deal told newsmen in Abuja few days ago that there was nothing like $2.1 billion arms deal.  “I must hasten to assure you that there is nothing like the much flaunted $2.1 billion armsgate. The competent courts of our land would sooner or later prove this coinage aimed at decimating the leadership and membership of our great party to be nothing but a hoax,” he said. On its part, the federal government has maintained that it would never relent in its efforts at fighting corruption, saying that was one of the core campaign promises for which the APC was voted into power.


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