There are strong indications that the decision of the South African authorities to seize the $5.7m involved in a botched arms purchase deal between a Nigerian Company, Societe D’ Equipment Internationaux, and a South African company, Cerberus, may have done severe damage to the image of the two leading African nations.
The $5.7m was seized by the Asset Forfeiture Unit of the National Prosecuting Authority in the deal which was burst by the South African National Conventional Arms Control.
Investigation revealed that top officers of the Federal Government were embittered that the South Africans were carrying out a deliberate plot to ridicule Nigeria in the international arena with the issue of the two frustrated arms deals.
A highly placed government official, who confided in our correspondent on Tuesday, said that the Federal Government might be compelled to take some tough steps to address the harsh actions of the South Africans against the country.
The source said that operatives of an office strategic to government operations in the country had commenced gathering information on the continuing aggression of South Africa to Nigeria with a view to come up with the appropriate response.
The source said that the South Africans went too far by seizing the money involved in the arms deal between legitimate two firms from the two countries.
There were strong indications that the Federal Government and its operatives might take reciprocal steps which might target economic activities between both countries negatively.
“Look, what I can tell you is that this country will not allow the South Africans who have benefitted so much from us to continue to act this way for ever without a response. I think, it is now time to call their bluff.
“How can you seize the money belonging to the Nigerian firm in the deal between two companies? I think that is absurd and we have started gathering information.
“If this situation is not handled with maturity, it could affect diplomatic relationship between the two countries.
Indications that the botched deal and the seizure of the $5.7m may attract the ire of the Federal Government emerged on Monday night when the office of the National Security Adviser defended the deal describing it as a transaction between two legitimate companies.
Another source said that it would not be out of place for the Federal Government to summon the Ambassador of South Africa in relation with the arms deal.
The Special Assistant, Media, to the Office of the National Security Adviser, Mr. Adekunle Karounwi, had said in a statement on the matter that the transaction could not be said to be illegitimate.
The NSA Office pointed that the South African had a responsibility to ensure the provision of a conducive business atmosphere for Nigerian companies just as Nigeria did for South African firms in the country.
“We want to state clearly that a business transaction actually took place between a legitimate company in Nigeria and another legitimate one in South Africa through the bank.
“In the course of events, the South African company could not perform and decided to refund the money. What is illegitimate in this transaction done through the bank?
“Nigeria provides the enabling environment for South African companies like MTN, DSTV and a host of others to do business unhindered.
It is our hope that South Africa would reciprocate this noble gesture.
“There is no alternative, we must win the war against insurgency, irrespective of the demeaning activities of fifth columnists.”
When one of our correspondents contacted the South African Ambassador to Nigeria, Mr. Lulu Mnguni, on the issue, he said that the seizure of monies meant for purchase of arms by his country would not affect the existing relationship between Nigeria and South Africa.
The envoy noted that Nigeria and South Africa had come a long way, stressing that the spat between the two countries over the arms purchase debacle would not destroy the relationship between them.
Mnguni, who said he would not comment on the separate seizures of $9.3m and $5.7m meant for purchase of arms by Nigeria, explained that the incidents were being investigated by the South African Police.
The ambassador, however, said the Police investigation would clear the controversy around the seizures, and reveal whether the arms deal followed the due process or not.
He said, “Nigeria and South Africa have come a long way, so I don’t think this incident can destroy it. But I won’t be able to comment on the incidents because they are under investigation by the Police and I cannot pre-empt the investigation.”