Former National Security Adviser (NSA), retired colonel Sambo Dasuki, has been squealing before investigators on beneficiaries of $2.1 billion his office allegedly released on not only purported arms purchases, but on as diverse as matters of non-security, like the reported payment of N2.1 billion to the owner of the Daar Communication group, Chief Raymond Dokpesi for media jobs Dokpesi did for the immediate former president, Goodluck Jonathan.
So far, a committee President Muhammadu Buhari constituted to probe arms spending over the past eight years had uncovered a total of N643.8 billion extra budgetary deal, excluding grants from the state governments and funds collected by the Department of State Security (DSS) and the Police.
As Dasuki maintained that he couldn’t have released such huge funds without Jonathan’s approval, not a few Nigerians believe he had done enough to tighten the noose on Jonathan to cause the arrest and prosecution of the former president. But considering certain developments before and after the March 28, 2015 presidential election in which Jonathan conceded defeat to Buhari, not a few Nigerians are also eagerly waiting to know how the ongoing corruption drama will pan out on Jonathan.
Dasuki’s mind-boggling and incriminating disclosures have already led to the arrest and arraignment of some leading members of the then ruling Peoples Democratic Party (PDP). The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) had last Monday arraigned Dasuki and three other persons before the Federal High Court, Abuja, on a 19-count charge bordering on money laundering and criminal breach of trust.
Interestingly, one of those docked along with Dasuki was Warripamowei Dudafa, currently at large, who was Senior Special Assistant on Domestic Affairs to Jonathan. The charge concerning Dudafa read, “On or about 27 November, 2014 in Abuja within the jurisdiction of this Honourable Court, entrusted with dominion over certain properties, to wit: the sum of N10 billion, being part of the funds in the account of the National Security Adviser with the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), the equivalent of which sum you received from the CBN in foreign currency to wit: $47 million and 5.6 million Euros, you committed a criminal breach of trust in respect of the said property when you claimed to have distributed same to the PDP presidential primary election delegates and you thereby committed an offence punishable under section 315 of the Penal Code Act, Cap 532, Vol.4 LFN 2004.”
Dudafa’s arraignment sprouted from a stunning revelation Dasuki was reported to have made while mentioning names of those he gave funds to from the arms money after obtaining approval from Jonathan.
On the former president, in a statement on November 18, Dasuki noted thus: “That I am aware in November (I cannot remember the exact date), my office requested the CBN to exchange N10 billion from the account of the Office of National Security Adviser domiciled in CBN. The money was exchanged at $47m and some Euros which I cannot remember. The exact amount was delivered at my residence.
“The money was for delegates that attended the nomination convention for the PDP Presidential nomination. The money was paid and sent to Hon. (Waripamowei) Dudafa (SSAP Household) and ADC (C-I-C) for distribution on the instruction of the President.”
It is not clear now how Buhari intends to handle whatever may be Jonathan’s involvement in the committee’s findings, which Adesina described as “extremely worrying considering that the interventions were granted within the same period that our troops fighting the insurgency in the Northeast were in desperate need of platforms, military equipment and ammunition.”
Had the funds siphoned to these non-performing companies been properly used for the purpose they were meant for, the Special Adviser pointed out, thousands of needless Nigerian deaths would have been avoided.
Besides, he added, the ridicule Nigeria had faced in the international community would have been avoided. He fumed, “It is disappointing that those entrusted with the security of this great nation were busy using proxies to siphon the national treasury, while innocent lives were wasted daily.”
The committee’s findings could, indeed, be worrisome enough to set Buhari on a collision course with his immediate predecessor whom he had eulogized on some occasions as a democratic hero for conceding defeat in the March 28 election. The president had inaugurated the 13-member committee on August 31 to probe weapon procurement since 2007. A statement by the Special Adviser to the President on Media and Publicity, Femi Adesina, said the president had directed the incumbent NSA, retired Major-General Babagana Monguno, to establish an investigative committee on the procurement of military hardware for the armed forces with a mandate to identify irregularities and make recommendations for streamlining the procurement process. The committee was headed by retired Air Vice Marshal J.O.N. Ode, while Brigadier-General Y.I. Shalangwa was Secretary.
The statement explained that the probe came against the background of the myriad of challenges that the Nigerian Armed Forces faced in the course of on-going counter-insurgency operations in the Northeast, including the apparent deficit in military platforms with its attendant negative effects on troops’ morale.
Accordingly, “the committee will specifically investigate allegations of non-adherence to correct equipment procurement procedures and the exclusion of relevant logistics branches from arms procurement under past administrations, which very often resulted in the acquisition of sub-standard and unserviceable equipment.”
On October 17, Adesina issued a statement that the president had received the committee’s report and ordered the arrest of those involved in the scandal.
The report disclosed that despite the huge financial intervention, very little was expended to support defence procurement. The committee also observed that of 513 contracts awarded at $8,356,525,184; N2,189,265,724,404 and €54,000.00, 53 contracts amounting to $2,378,939,066 and N13, 729,342,329 were failed contracts.
It was also noted that the amount of foreign currency spent on failed contracts was more than double the $1bn loan that the National Assembly approved for borrowing to fight the insurgency in the Northeast.
The committee discovered that Dasuki made payments to the tune of N3.85bn to a single company without documented evidence of contractual agreements or fulfillment of tax obligations to the federal government.
It was discovered that between March 2012 and March 2015, Dasuki awarded contracts to the tune of N2,219,188,609.50; $1,671,742,613.58 and €9,905,477.00. The contracts, which were said to be for the purchase of four Alpha Jets, 12 helicopters, bombs and ammunition were found “not to have been executed and the equipment never supplied to the Nigerian Air Force, neither were they in its inventory.”
Adesina informed that the committee also discovered that Dasuki directed the Central Bank of Nigeria to transfer the sum of $132,050,486.97 and €9,905,473.55 to the accounts of Societe D’equipmente Internationaux in West Africa, United Kingdom and United States of America for unascertained purposes, without any contract documents to explain the transactions.
He said, “As part of the findings, the committee has analyzed interventions from some organizations that provided funds to the Office of the National Security Adviser, Defence Headquarters, Army Headquarters Naval Headquarters and Nigerian Air Force Headquarters, both in local and foreign currencies.
“The foreign currency component is to the tune of $2,193,815,000.83. These amounts exclude grants from the state governments and funds collected by the DSS and the police. It was observed that in spite of this huge financial intervention, very little was expended to support defence procurement.”
Jonathan, in Washington DC, USA to speak on “Presidential elections and democratic consolidation in Africa: Case studies on Nigeria and Tanzania,” denied that his administration awarded contracts for arms procurement to the tune of $2 billion.
Following the findings, other arrests and arraignments had been. On December 1, the EFCC picked up son of former Sokoto State governor Attahiru Bafarawa, and Dokpesi, who was arraigned on December 9. Former Minister of State for Finance in the Jonathan administration, Bashir Yuguda, was also arrested and charged in court.
Beside the 19-count charge, the federal government had earlier on October 26, filed charges accusing Dasuki of money laundering by keeping $40,000, N5 millon and another $20,000 in the house contrary to section 15 (2)(d) of the Money Laundering Prohibition Act 2011.
Again the former NSA was said to have on July 16 at his Abuja and Sokoto residences retained another $150,000 and N37.6mn being part of proceedings of an unlawful act contrary to Section 15(3) of the Money Laundering Act 2011.
The Buhari Dilemma
As uncertainty trails Buhari’s decisive step on Jonathan amidst Dasuki’s bombshells and other revelations, there is the belief in some quarters that the president is being hamstrung by some “hidden” portions of the Abuja Peace Accord initiated by the National Peace Committee and signed by all political parties on March 26, 2015.
The committee is led by a former military Head of State, Abdusalami Abubakar and the major signatories to the pact were Buhari and Jonathan.
The major crux of the pact, made public two days to the presidential elections, was that the parties must shun violence and candidates accept the outcome of the polls. But Daily Trust on Sunday gathered that invariably, the telephone call by former President Jonathan congratulating Buhari for winning the elections was “Part 1” of the Accord “hidden” agreement. The “Part 2” it was learnt, was that there should not be any probe of the past regime, especially should Buhari win.
This is where some observers say the President is facing a “crisis” after the uncovering of huge looted funds. However, there are others who believe the president’s body language and words in recent times doesn’t guarantee Jonathan an exit from prosecution once there is an incontrovertible ground for it.
The latter school pointed to the president’s resolve, when the National Peace Committee visited him on August 11, 2015, to prosecute all involved in looting the national resources.
Adesina quoted the president as saying his government was “irrevocably” determined to break the vicious cycle of corruption, unemployment and insecurity in Nigeria. The spokesman also quoted his boss as saying that apart from working to return stolen funds in foreign banks, he would also put the culprits on trial in Nigeria.
Buhari had noted that, “Those who have stolen the national wealth will be in court in a matter of weeks and Nigerians will know those who have short-changed them.”
Although a close aide to Jonathan maintained that the former president was unperturbed about the disclosures of wild looting under him and Dasuki’s allegation that he gave approvals, Jonathan may not actually be comfortable with the developments. The aide disclosed that Jonathan views the disclosures of looting as affecting individual members of his administration rather than him or his administration generally.
But five days before the Peace Committee visited, Jonathan had paid a “secret visit” to the president at his official residence in Aso Rock Villa. What they discussed wasn’t made public, but our correspondent gathered it was not unconnected with the findings of the committee.
What, perhaps, exposed the discomfort of some elements close to the former president were the words of the Catholic Bishop of Sokoto Diocese, Mathew Hassan Kukah, who, when the Peace Committee visited Buhari, subtly appealed to Jonathan’s concession of defeat to Buhari as something the president should note.
The cleric, a member of the Peace Committee, said, “The former president’s commitment and what he did still remains spectacular, and I think that President Buhari himself appreciates that. So, our effort really is to make sure that the right thing is done.”
Kukah, who dismissed reports that Jonathan sought the committee’s intervention on the ongoing probe of his government, added, “What we are concerned about is process. It is no longer a military regime, and under our existing laws, everybody is innocent until proven guilty. Again, our own commitment is not to intimidate or fight anybody.”
A member of the National Peace Committee that the Daily Trust on Sunday spoke with believed that prosecuting Jonathan “will be difficult despite the fact his signature was on many of the controversial deals.”
The member, who didn’t want to be named, said Buhari’s reluctance in inviting Jonathan to answer for his role in the arms deal, among others, may not necessarily be informed by any deal struck by the two leaders.
“I am not aware of any deal to let Jonathan off the hook facilitated by the peace committee,” he said.
He explained that so many other factors would be responsible for Buhari’s dilemma over Jonathan.
He said it was clear that before the polls, the then ruling party “had no plan to hand over power.”
“The truth is that pressure from the United States and Western world was the major factor that forced the PDP to handover even after elections,” he said.
The wind of change blowing across the country and the deadly consequences of any attempt to rig the polls, forced the west and US to ensure that Jonathan handover peacefully, he said.
The source said the United States which is the biggest financier of the United Nations Peace Keeping Operations vowed not to send its troops to African soil after its tragic involvement in Somalia.
“So, naturally, Nigeria assumed the leading role of providing troops to UN peace keeping operations. By this, the West decided that anything that will destabilize Nigeria must be averted and Jonathan had to handover,” he said.
He added that Jonathan’s personal decision to hand over to the opposition party would play significantly in his favour in current developments.
The member argued, “He could have adopted the Laurent Gbago way by sticking to power, which may likely lead to crisis and bloodshed as it happened in Ivory Coast. But he did otherwise. That singular act endeared him to the West despite the alleged cases of corruption against him.
“His peaceful handover, notwithstanding who prompted him, overshadowed his lapses. He is now a statesman.”
He said Jonathan now has the sympathy of the West, so, therefore, “docking him over this corruption case is likely to have a backlash,” he said.
He opined that apart from the ethnic sentiments probing Jonathan may elicit, Nigerian courts lack the capacity to prosecute governors for graft diligently, not to talk of a former president.
“No single former governor has been diligently convicted for corruption so far. James Ibori was convicted in far away London,” he said.
Pointing out that the opposition PDP was already alleging that the anti-graft war is selective, thereby stoking ethnic embers that may destabilize the polity, the Peace Committee member said Buhari will have to consider all the options vis-a-vis the political stability of the country before going after Jonathan.
He explained that it is not by accident that the concept of “nolle prosequi” was inserted into the Constitution.
“By this concept, the government has the power ‘to be unwilling to pursue’ and to stop any prosecution if it feels it may jeopardize national interest and stability,” the source said.
These, among other factors, he stressed are responsible for Buhari’s dilemma over Jonathan, he said.
Dr Suleiman Ndanusa, Minister of Planning in the Jonathan administration, told this publication it was too early to comment on the Jonathan issue.
All those arguments of the Peace Committee member against the arrest and arraignment of Jonathan, as well as that of his Minister of Finance and coordinating minister for the economy, Dr (Mrs) Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, however, cut no ice with the Edo State governor, Adams Oshiomhole, especially after it became public knowledge that Okonjo-Iweala allegedly approved the transfer of, at least, N61.4bn ($300m and £5.5m) from funds recovered from late dictator, Sani Abacha, to the Office of the National Security Adviser, Sambo Dasuki, a few weeks to the 2015 presidential election.
The funds were said not to have been appropriated before they were transferred, which violated Nigeria’s fiscal responsibility law.
Oshiomhole has always insisted that the former Finance minister be arrested for mismanaging the nation’s finance, a call Okonjo-Iweala described as “reckless”.
In the light of ongoing disclosures of how the Abacha loot was spent, Oshiomhole has renewed his call for the prosecution of Jonathan and his former coordinator of his economic programs.
The governor maintained that neither the president nor the minister had power to unilaterally transfer funds that were not appropriated by the National Assembly.
He said the two persons should be charged alongside Dasuki, Dokpesi and Bafawara for allegedly misappropriating funds meant for arms procurement.
“The issue is whether the Nigerian President under the Constitution has the power to approve funds belonging to local, state and federal government – funds that have not been appropriated by the National Assembly. That is a criminal offen c e for which Okonjo-Iweala ought to face criminal prosecution,” he told the press.
“ By Dasuki’s letter, he has also confirmed that Okonjo-Iweala was privy to spending money never appropriated and therefore criminal, and that cash were being moved contrary to the Money Laundering Act. Just using Dasuki’s own defence, you can see a case of conspiracy has been established between Dasuki, Okonjo-Iweala and all those involved in that transaction. ”
But Okonjo-Iweala retorted that she had nothing to do with the $2.1bn arms procurement . “It is unconscionable for the governor to embark on a campaign of lies against her because she thwarted his dubious loan request,” a statement from her aide said.
The president is not revealing his hand now on whose names are in his black book of treasury looting. At the Osigwe Anyiam-Osigwe Foundation Lecture titled “Incorruptibility: A Spiritual Premise for Material Well-being,” Buhari pleaded that in order not to scuttle the possibility of bigger recoveries, he will not, for now, disclose the names of past government officials voluntarily returning looted funds.
“Yes, in due course, the Central Bank of Nigeria will make information available to the public on the surrendered funds, but I must remark that it is yet early days, and any disclosure now may jeopardize the possibility of bigger recoveries,” Buhari said.
Meanwhile, the Executive Director, Civil Society Legislature Advocacy Centre, Abuja, Auwal Musa Rafsanjani, has kicked against any arrangement that would prevent any person indicted of corruption from being prosecuted. “If Jonathan and his associates are found wanting, they should be prosecuted. The fact that he handed over power does not stop him from being prosecuted. The money should be recovered,” he said.
However, the Presidency has said that President Muhammadu Buhari’s hands are not tied over the possibility of probing his predecessor, Dr Goodluck Jonathan.
The Special Adviser to the President on Media and Publicity, Mr Femi Adesina, told our correspondent on telephone last night that Buhari did not reach any agreement with the National Peace Committee for the 2015 General Elections that Jonathan would not be probed.
Adesina explained that the National Peace Committee, headed by former Head of State General Abdulsalami Abubakar (rtd), only advised that all probes should be done in accordance with the rule of law.
“There was no agreement with the National Peace Committee that anybody would not be probed. What the National Peace Committee said was that probe should be done in accordance with the rule of law”, he said.
Asked whether former President Jonathan would be probed, the presidential spokesman simply said: “When we come to any bridge, it will be crossed”.