Some of the prominent Nigerians involved in the $2.1bn security fund scandal have been reaching out to ex-president Olusegun Obasanjo to intervene on their behalf.
Those who are doing so, Sunday PUNCH learnt, wanted soft-landing. Although our correspondent was unable to get the names of these suspects from his sources, a trusted aide of the former President confirmed the development.
“I can confirm that,” one of the former president’s trusted aides told one of our correspondents on Saturday night on the telephone, when asked if the former president had been approached. Obasanjo, who played a major role in galvanizing local and international support for Candidate Muhammadu Buhari prior to the 2015 election, is believed to have the ears of the current president. However, the source said Obasanjo was not likely to accede to the requests of the highly influential Nigerians involved in the scandal.
Some staff of the office of the National Security Adviser, who made useful statements to investigators of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, had named several prominent Nigerians in politics, business, governance and the media as beneficiaries of several “suspicious payments”.
Former Accounts Officer II, Ibrahim Idris Wambai, in his statement to the EFCC, had said he made several cash payments to former presidential spokesperson, Doyin Okupe, and Ahmad Idris, a personal assistant to the former National Security Adviser, Col. Sambo Dasuki (retd.). Sunday PUNCH sources within the EFCC said Wambai had been singing like a canary since his arrest and interrogation. He added that the accounts officer had also mentioned several of ex-President Goodluck Jonathan’s aides as beneficiaries of Dasuki’s largesse.
But the Obasanjo aide said those who hoped the former president would help them to pervert the course of justice were in for a shocker.
He said, “Of course, some of the people involved in the scandal are reaching out to Baba (Obasanjo). They want soft-landing. People would always reach out to him. But we all know Obasanjo’s disposition to some people and what he thinks of them.
“Moreover, the revelations are serious. Even if only 10 per cent is true, it is still serious. Also it is important to stress that what have been revealed are the things that we know. How about other deals that we do not know? We are talking about the office of the National Security Adviser, how about what happened in other places: Education, Finance, Aviation etc?”
Our correspondent in Aso Rock, however, learnt on Saturday that former presidents and influential Nigerians had been reluctant to reach out to Buhari to either stop the probe or protect some individuals.
SUNDAY PUNCH had sought to know if former President Jonathan had sent emissaries to the President and whether or not he had been approached by influential individuals with a view to intervene based on the ongoing revelations.
But a source in the Presidency who pleaded anonymity told our correspondent that since the encounter the Catholic Bishop of Sokoto, Matthew Kukah, had with the President on the current administration’s anti-corruption posture, influential people had been careful about approaching the President on such matters.
“To the best of my knowledge, nobody has approached the President on the matter. Since the recent event of Bishop Kukah’s intervention that went sour, nobody has approached the President. In any case, nobody will want to risk it because we all know the President’s position on the issue of corruption,” the source said.
During the August 16 visit of the National Peace Committee led by Gen. Abdulsalami Abubakar to the President, Kukah had advised that the rule of law should be followed in the anti-corruption war.
Responding, Buhari told the delegation that the prosecution of persons found to have stolen national resources would begin in a matter of weeks, adding that his administration was irrevocably committed to doing all within its powers to break the vicious cycle of corruption, unemployment and insecurity in Nigeria.
Meanwhile, SUNDAY PUNCH has learnt that the Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria, Mr. Godwin Emefiele, may not be sanctioned despite revelations from the arms probe that showed that the CBN facilitated the payments.
The source told our correspondent that the thinking is that Emefiele could not have acted against the directive of a sitting President even if he was not comfortable with the withdrawals.
“You know it is not everybody that will have the strong will like Sanusi (former CBN Governor) to move against a sitting President. For now, I am not aware of any plan to sanction Emefiele,” he added.
Efforts to get the reactions of presidential spokesmen had not yielded positive results as at the time of filing this report.
Meanwhile, the EFCC may invite former Vice-President Namadi Sambo for questioning following revelations that his office allegedly got a monthly stipend of N20m from the office of the NSA. A source within the commission told our correspondent on Saturday that Sambo might be invited this week.
A highly placed official in the EFCC told one of our correspondents that everyone mentioned in the scandal would be invited to write a statement. According to him, President Buhari was not interested in protecting anyone irrespective of class or region.
He said, “Everyone that Wambai mentioned would be called upon to tell us what they know. And I do not think the former vice-president will be exempted. All the names are in the public and Nigerians would be expecting us to do justice to all. And that is what we intend to do. No sacred cows.”