LEKE BAIYEWU examines the impact of the ongoing anti-corruption campaign by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission under the President Muhammadu-led administration on the opposition Peoples Democratic Party
Last Wednesday, the Peoples Democratic Party lamented what it described as oppressive and unfair treatment against its key leaders by the Federal Government.
The opposition party, in a statement by its National Legal Adviser, Mr. Victor Kwom, alleged that the arrest and detention of Deputy National Chairman of the PDP, Uche Secondus by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission was part of “the grand script by the All Progressives Congress-led Federal Government to decimate the opposition.”
The party said, “We are also aware that plans have been perfected by the Federal Government to arrest and detain the Deputy Senate President, Senator Ike Ekweremadu; Senate Minority Leader, Senator Godswill Akpabio, and other leaders of the party on imaginary charges.
“Indeed, intelligence available to the party shows that the Federal Government, using its various agencies, is bent on destroying any opposition to the ruling party, as all indications show that the government is more interested in humiliating the PDP than fighting corruption.
“We state that this war on the PDP and its leaders has indeed gone too far. It has now become a mockery of democratic practice.”
The EFCC had last Tuesday arrested Secondus few days after the commission said the new National Chairman of the PDP, Sen. Ali Modu Sheriff, was still under investigation for alleged corruption.
The anti-graft agency is currently prosecuting several people suspected of graft while some are on its wanted list. Incidentally, most of the suspects are members of the PDP or have links with the party or officials of the last PDP-led Federal Government.
President Muhammadu Buhari had indicated from the onset that his administration was going to probe into the activities of the preceding administration by the PDP led by former President Goodluck Jonathan.
Since the campaign was launched, several members of the opposition party have been facing the heat.
Sheriff’s pending case with the EFCC has to do with alleged embezzlement of public funds during his eight-year two-term tenure as governor of Borno State. The anti-graft agency arrested him in June 2015 but granted him bail.
A major probe into the anti-terror campaign of the military under the last administration had showed that $2.1bn meant for the procurement of arms and ammunition to fight terrorism had been allegedly diverted by Jonathan’s National Security Adviser, Col. Sambo Dasuki (retd.), who is being prosecuted by the EFCC.
Part of the fund was allegedly used to finance PDP’s electioneering and Jonathan’s re-election bid in the 2015 general elections and was distributed to various party chiefs and companies linked to the politicians.
Dasuki had allegedly named some of the recipients of the slush funds. One major beneficiary was a former Chairman of the PDP’s Board of Trustees, Tony Anenih, who collected N260m from the controversial money.
Both Dasuki and Anenih had further named more beneficiaries, including a former Governor of Rivers State, Peter Odili (N100m); National Leader of Accord Party, Rashidi Ladoja (N100m); former Governor of Sokoto State, Attahiru Bafarawa (N100m); and former Governor of old Anambra State, Jim Nwobodo (N100m).
Others are former National Chairman, PDP, Ahmadu Ali (N100m); and former National Vice Chairman (South-West), PDP, Bode George (N100m or $30,000); National Chairman, Social Democratic Party, Olu Falae (N100m); Chairman, Northern Elders’ Council, Tanko Yakasai (N63m); former Chairman, DAAR Communications PLC, Raymond Dokpesi, (N2.1bn); former National Chairman, PDP, Mohammed Bello Haliru, and his son, Abba Mohammed (N300m), among others.
Most of those named had admitted collecting the monies for mobilisation of support for the PDP and its presidential candidate, Jonathan, in the general elections.
However, while some of the beneficiaries have claimed ignorance that the monies paid to them were from Dasuki as it was Anenih that paid them, others had argued that the monies they collected were service charges and consultancy fees for their services to the PDP.
The EFCC picked up Secondus as a result of the statements made by the Chairman of Atlantic Energy Drilling Concepts Nigeria Limited, Mr. Jide Omokore, who the commission arrested last week following an investigation into fuel subsidy payments and other oil deals when Mrs. Diezani Alison-Madueke was the Minister of Petroleum Resources.
Omokore, widely believed to be an ally of Alison-Madueke and Jonathan, reportedly mentioned Secondus; the immediate past Minister of State for Defence, Mr. Musiliu Obanikoro and former National Chairman of the PDP, Adamu Mu’azu, when he was interrogated.
Secondus was said to have been grilled over 23 cars consisting of Mercedes G63 and Range Rover Autobiography and worth N302m, which he and other persons collected from Omokore.
The commission plans to invite Obanikoro, who is reportedly studying in the United States and Mu’azu, who is reportedly in either the United Arab Emirates or Singapore.
The EFCC had on February 17 grilled Rear Admiral Alison Madueke (retd.), Diezani’s husband, for several hours after honouring an invitation by the commission.
The interrogation of Madueke reportedly followed the discovery of about $600,000 in his personal accounts. The ex-Chief of Naval Staff was said to have been released on administrative bail while his passport was seized by the anti-graft agency.
The House of Representatives had also last Monday despatched a letter to Diezani, asking her to explain how she extended contracts of two firms, Duke Oil and Tranfigura, which were given the swap contracts under the controversial crude-for-refined products (swap) deals by the Nigeria National Petroleum Corporation.
The contracts worth $24bn were allegedly approved by the ex-minister without valid agreements.
The Chairman of the House Ad hoc Committee on Crude Oil Swap, Mr. Zakari Mohammed, said the ex-minister had been invited to appear before the committee on March 2.
The EFCC and UK authorities had been investigating Diezani, who was reported to be undergoing medical treatment in a United Kingdom hospital. She had since denied mismanaging public funds while in office.
The EFCC would have gone for the National Secretary of the PDP, Prof. Wale Oladipo, but for a Federal High Court in Abuja, which on February 18 restrained the Attorney General of the Federation, Mr. Abubakar Malami (SAN), the anti-graft agency and others from arresting the party scribe.
Others restrained by the court order were the Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Commission, the Inspector General of Police, Mr. Solomon Arase; and the Department of State Service.
Oladipo, who filed the suit on February 8, alleged that he was being harassed and intimidated on the basis of funds which he received from members of the PDP.
The EFCC also sprang a surprise last Monday when its operatives arrested and grilled the immediate past Minister of Interior, Mr. Abba Moro, for the March 15, 2014, tragedy in a nationwide recruitment exercise conducted by the Nigeria Immigration Service, an agency under the ministry, as well as an e-passport project of the service.
The commission also arrested the Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Works and Housing, Mr. Abubakar Magaji, who was the Permanent Secretary at the Ministry of the Interior.
The EFCC had earlier on October 20, 2015, quizzed Moro for several hours over the scam which led to the death of about 20 applicants and left many others injured in various recruitment centres across the country.
The alleged fraud involved the collection of about N520m from 520,000 Nigerian graduate applicants. Officials of the EFCC had claimed that the money had been allegedly diverted for the acquisition of private properties.
The recruitment scam was widely believed to have been buried by the last administration as the demand by several civil society organisations for the resignation or dismissal of Moro and the then Comptroller-General of Immigration, David Parradang, as well as their criminal prosecution for involuntary homicide were ignored.
The 7th Senate had also directed its Committee on Interior to carry out a comprehensive probe into the matter. The Senator Abubakar Bagudu-led committee concluded its investigation and submitted its report but was not listed for consideration.
It was reported that the committee allegedly took into consideration, the fact that Moro, who spearheaded the tragic exercise, was the political godson of the then Senate President, Sen. David Mark.
Jonathan neither sacked nor asked Moro to resign until the end of his administration.
The EFCC had on February 18 further declared a former Niger Delta militant leader, Government Ekpemupolo, aka Tompolo, wanted. The militant warlord had a swell time under the administration of Jonathan.
The EFCC had published an advertorial, saying it decided to declare Tompolo wanted following two bench warrants issued against him by a Federal High Court in Lagos, where the anti-graft agency filed 40 counts charge against Tompolo and nine others, including the immediate past Director-General of the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency, Patrick Akpobolokemi, over N45.9bn alleged fraud.
The EFCC had also begun a fresh investigation into what it described as a “curious” transfer of the sum of N6bn from the Office of the Secretary to the Government of the Federation to the Office of the National Security Adviser and two other agencies after the 2015 presidential election.
The EFCC is prosecuting the National Publicity Secretary of the PDP, Mr. Olisa Metuh, who collected N400m and another N1.2bn traced to him.
Metuh had admitted that he collected an undisclosed sum of money from Jonathan but he argued that he got the undisclosed amount for carrying out unspecific work as the spokesperson for the PDP for the ex-President.
The EFCC had also arrested a former Minister of State for Finance, Bashir Yuguda.
In a fresh charge against Metuh, the name of Anenih also came up as having being paid N21.7m from the N400m allegedly paid to Metuh by Dasuki, different from the N260m said to have been paid to Anenih by the former NSA, as alleged by the EFCC in one of the separate set of charges of misappropriation of arms funds preferred against Dasuki and others.
The EFCC had named Anenih as one of the beneficiaries of the N400m collected by Metuh from the Office of the NSA in the seven counts of money laundering it filed against the PDP spokesperson. In the fresh charges, Metuh and Destra allegedly transferred the sum of N21.7m to Anenih.
Anenih had however argued that he spent part of his money on electioneering and that the PDP still owed him.
Consequently, the EFCC arraigned Metuh in a Federal Capital Territory High Court in Maitama, Abuja, on two counts of destruction of evidence while in the custody of the EFCC about 24 hours after his arraignment for alleged money laundering.
Not done with Metuh, the EFCC on Thursday amended the charges of destruction of evidence filed against Metuh and added another count of obstruction of officers of the commission.
The EFCC had also arraigned Mohammed along with his son, Abbah Mohammed, and BAM Projects and Properties Ltd., the company through which they allegedly collected and diverted the N300m they collected from Dasuki before a Federal High Court in Abuja.
Again last Monday, the commission filed a fresh evidence of N300m allegedly received by Bello, from the Office of the NSA on February 27, 2015, before a Federal High Court in Abuja. The agency said its investigation had further shown that Bello received N300m from ONSA in two tranches of N150m each.
While there was growing criticisms that the APC-led government was clamping down on the opposition, the EFCC had arrested a chief of the ruling party and close-associate of President Buhari, Gen. Jafaru Isa (retd.), for receiving N170m from the allegedly diverted $2.1bn.
Isa was said to have admitted receiving the money from Dasuki, refunded N100m and signed an undertaking to pay the balance.
When the APC chief was released and the PDP was alleging bias, the EFCC blamed Metuh’s continued detention on his alleged refusal to refund the N1.2bn linked to him in the arms scandal or sign an undertaking to do so. The commission noted that the PDP spokesperson would be released as soon as he satisfied the bail conditions, making reference to the case of Isa.
Since the PDP left power on May 29, 2015 – after 16 years of ruling the country – it has been enmeshed in different controversies. Several leaders of the party, officials in the Jonathan-led government as well as their allies have been experiencing, perhaps, the most trying moment in their political career.
Jonathan of the PDP, after losing to President Muhammadu Buhari of the APC in the 2015 presidential election, had predicted what was going to happen to his men. Jonathan said in parts, “If you take certain decisions, it might be good for many but it might affect others differently. So, for ministers and aides who served with me, I sympathise with them because they will be persecuted. They must be ready for persecution.
“Quoting Tai Solarin, may your ways be rough, I say to my ministers. I wish you what I wish myself. They will have hard times; we will all have hard times. Our ways will be rough.”
Jonathan’s prediction had been subjected to different interpretations.
A member of the PDP’s BoT, Chief Ebenezer Babatope, had said the days of “persecution” Jonathan was talking about had come. According to him, the ongoing trial of PDP leaders and ex-officials of the Jonathan-led administration have confirmed the prediction.
However, the Executive Chairman of the Coalition Against Corrupt Leaders, Mr. Debo Adeniran, who had a different interpretation of Jonathan’s words, said that what the ex-president meant was that there would be trial for his men who had committed various crimes while in office.
Speaking to SUNDAY PUNCH on the trials, the Chairman of the Lagos State chapter of the PDP, Mr. Adetunji Shelle, described EFCC’s actions as unprecedented. “I don’t think the rule of law is followed strictly, apart from the fact that the trials are subjective and selective,” he said.
According to him, so many things are wrong with the ongoing anti-graft campaign but there is nothing the party can do.
Shelle said, “We expect the judiciary to do the proper thing and ensure that the privileges of individuals are not trampled upon. You can imagine the case of an aide-de- camp (to Jonathan, Col. Ojogbane Adegbe detained by the EFCC); ADC is a military posting; he did his work and he had to obey the last order of the President to him. I don’t think the man should be detained without charges against him and trial. It is out of place.
“We will plead and beg that the proper thing should be done. Rule of law should be followed. I am sure the President (Buhari) himself doesn’t know most of these things that they are doing behind him or using his name to run down another party. I think they are trying to run down the opposition so that everybody will be scared.”
However, the National Secretary of the PDP, Oladipo, urged his party men to keep hope alive. He reminded them that this is the first time the party would be in opposition since democracy returned in 1999.
Oladipo said, “Opposition comes with a lot of challenges and this is part of the challenges. We should keep faith and continue to be hopeful and loyal to our party.”
When asked if he thought the PDP would survive all that were happening to it, the party scribe said, “The APC was in opposition; if it could come to power by contesting an election and win without any experience of governance at the federal level before, why will the PDP not come back stronger? We will! Our people should just continue to be lawful, law-abiding and loyal to their party. We should avoid internal squabbles. We are the alternative and I am sure that with time we will be back.”
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