By UMAR SA’AD HASSAN –
Garba Shehu, the special assistant to President Buhari on media, recently made the first official reaction on behalf of The Presidency to an allegation against its chief of staff, Abba Kyari, of defrauding a contractor to the tune of N30million in a transaction for the supply of 15 Hilux vans to the Aso Villa. Mr Shehu did not issue a press statement; he tweeted at a newspaper accusing them of publishing falsehood in a matter The Presidency had refused to address, in what has become its customary posture towards grievous allegations against prominent members of its cabinet.
The president did not deem it fit to initiate a probe or mandate the authorities to look into the matter with a view to taking decisive action. Kyari had been tried and acquitted indoors.
What baffles most is the utter shamelessness with which The Presidency goes about this business of overlooking critical issues involving its officials and cronies. They don’t seem bothered in the least about public opinion. There is virtually no effort most of the time to even show up for the cameras.
These are five issues Buhari wants waved aside:
- AGF Malami’s indictment by the House of Representatives in the reinstatement of pension funds fugitive Abdulrasheed Maina
A 12-man ad-hoc committee was set up by the House of Reps to look into the reinstatement of Abdulrasheed Maina, a man declared wanted by the EFCC for embezzling what is believed to be up to N17.1bn of pension funds, and its findings were that the attorney-general of the federation, Abubakar Malami, SAN, met with Maina in Dubai despite knowing he was a fugitive and pressurized everyone he possibly could to get him back into the civil service. The man was allowed to get away after he was discovered – and the Federal government’s claim that he had been added to Interpol’s wanted fugitives list has been punctured, as Maina cannot be found anywhere on that list.
Till date Buhari has not acted on that indictment by initiating a probe, but it surprises no one, considering the fact that the head of service, Mrs Winifred Oyo-Ita, has said Buhari was aware of his reinstatement and that she had earlier warned him on the possible implications on his anti-corruption war. Maina himself has said Buhari reached out and reinstated him through the AGF.
Buhari is shameless enough to not bother probing and exonerating Malami even for optics. He is not bothered by an indictment by the second arm of government despite its previous one having led to the sack of the secretary of the government of the federation. Integrity, my big black foot!
- Non-prosecution of Babachir Lawal and Patience Jonathan
President Buhari had to be forced by public outcry to assign the probe of his former SGF, Babachir Lawal, and EFCC boss Ibrahim Magu to the attorney-general of the federation. Malami issued a clean bill of health, and, after more outcry over Babachir’s blatant guilt and the AGF’s non-suitability for the task, he formed the Osinbajo committee which indicted him, shortly after which Babachir was removed and arrested by the EFCC.
A lot of people knew not to rejoice as there was a lack of will to punish Babachir in the first place. Their fears have been justified as the EFCC held him for a day and granted him administrative bail ‘pending further investigation’. It’s been almost eight months since Babachir was set free in a matter already investigated and acted upon by the Senate, AGF and a probe committee with each’s findings at their fingertips.
Patience Jonathan’s case has to be the most astonishing of Buhari’s anti-corruption crusade. The woman claimed ownership of millions of dollars in the bank accounts of her cronies and even went ahead to sue the government. The mere audacity of that act led to the inevitable conclusion that the Jonathans may either have something very damaging on Buhari or may have ‘settled’ him. The EFCC, even after seizing houses belonging to Dame Patience, still hasn’t invited her for questioning, talk more prosecute her.
- Malami paying over $17m to 2 Nigerian lawyers in the recovery of $321m Abacha loot
The AGF claims that Enrico Monfrini, the world-renowned Swiss lawyer engaged by the federal government stuck to a 20-30% fee rate for the recovery of the mass moneys looted by the Abacha family and stashed in various financial institutions across the world. Malami said that agreement was no longer tenable, hence the hiring of two Nigerian lawyers, Oladipo Okpeseyi and Temitope Adebayo, who agreed to a 5% fee from the $321m recovered from a bank in Luxembourg.
Monfrini’s attention was drawn to the story being bandied around by Malami, and he gave his own version of events, which have by 100, 000 miles been the most compelling. Monfrini said he had never heard of a lawyer anywhere in the world collecting a 20-30% cut in such a huge legitimate transaction and that he charges 5% or even less. The records are there: he has been engaged by the federal government since as far back as 1999. He had completed his job on this instalment and all that remained was for our government to write a letter requesting that the money be transferred down here. Technically, it means Malami hired the two Nigerian lawyers to request the money for a sum of $17m.
Cable Journalism Foundation, CJF, a partner organization of TheCable online newspaper, has continually written to the AGF requesting information and documents on the said transaction, with no response coming from him. It has gone to court seeking an order of mandamus compelling Malami to furnish it with all it is requesting in compliance with the Freedom of Information Act (FoI) 2011.Why would the AGF hire lawyers for $17m to do a job already done by Monfrini? Neither he nor the government is willing to answer that.
- Kemi Adeosun’s NYSC certificate
This pretty much is an open and shut case. Records show Kemi Adeosun graduated from a university in the UK at the age of 22, and the NYSC mobilization is mandatory for anyone who graduates under the age of 30. Much fuss is being made over an exemption certificate which automatically puts her in the wrong, even if she does have a valid one. That is, if she does, because everything points to the fact that she doesn’t.
The NYSC said she applied for an exemption certificate and has left it at that till date. It hasn’t responded positively to enquiries by private individuals and bodies.
First, Mr Lai Mohammed adopted the NYSC statement saying she applied for an exemption certificate as the government’s stand on the matter before he and Garba Shehu composed a new tune entitled ‘Under investigation’.
The woman graduated at 22 and has been parading an NYSC exemption certificate since she started work here. Both are very verifiable facts. But, again, we have been asked to dance to ‘Under investigation’.
- The ‘tactical amnesty’ granted Diezani Alison-Madueke
The EFCC has said it is not in negotiations of any kind with Diezani, but a critical look at her case will reveal a shockingly lackadaisical attitude on the part of our authorities. The AGF and EFCC chairman Ibrahim Magu, had both said she won’t be extradited to face charges as the UK government was also ready to prosecute her. She had had her £25, 000 seized in that country in 2015 and, with James Ibori in mind, it made perfect sense that she should be prosecuted there .The UK government said it was going to charge her to court in June 2017; it didn’t and by September 2017 (three months later) Magu had back-tracked and was talking of on-going plans to extradite her.
Her properties are being seized in Nigeria and the UK but, like the case of Patience Jonathan, the authorities aren’t too enthusiastic about taking her to court.
The word on the street is that this administration may have negotiated a deal with the UK authorities it had convinced to help bully her for non-prosecution in exchange for a certain amount of her loot in their shores. Exactly a year later, Magu’s plans to extradite her are still on-going.
The Buhari government hasn’t hosted a media chat since its only one on December 30, 2015. to answer our many questions – questions it doesn’t seem to have any answers to. So much for the transparency and accountability we were promised!
Hassan is based in Kano