Former Nigeria’s President Goodluck Jonathan has for the first time waded into $2.6 arms procurement scandal which has seen the arrest of former National Security Adviser (NSA) Col. Sambo Dasuki, advising the Federal government of President Muhammadu Buhari to desist from ‘playing politics with serious issues.’
Jonathan who said his government never awarded any arms procurement contract to the tune alleged by the 13-man panel set by President Buhari to investigate arm and military equipment purchases by Nigeria from 2007 till date.
It would be recalled that Jonathan’s former National Security Adviser (NSA), Col. Sambo Dasuki (rtd.), Wednesday, provided documents detailing exchange of correspondence between him and the Defence chiefs on the receipt of arms and other equipment purchased by the former NSA in the ex-President Goodluck Jonathan administration.
The move follows, Wednesday’s order by President Muhammadu Buhari for his arrest, even as the former NSA remains under house arrest enforced by the Department of State Security (DSS) despite two separate Federal High Court orders directing the release of his travel documents to enable move abroad for medical treatment.
However, reacting on the controversy surrounding the indictment of Dasuki and the allegations of the panel, Jonathan denied awarding any contract for the purchase of arms in the country to the tune of $2 billion as alleged by the Buhari panel.
“I did not award any $2 billion contract for procurement of weapons,” Jonathan stated categorically at a forum in Washington DC, Thursday, querying, “Where did the money come from?”
“I did not award a contract of $2billion for procurement of weapons,” Jonathan restated.
The former president was speaking at an event titled: “Presidential elections and democratic consolidation in Africa: Case studies on Nigeria and Tanzania”.
The session was co-hosted by National Democratic Institute (NDI) and the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) with Mr. Jonathan as the sole speaker.
Jonathan touched on the contract issue after he stated that he was aware of allegations of huge sums of money that were said to be missing from the Nigerian treasury, but he claimed that some of the figures mentioned are not believable. “Sometimes, I feel sad when people mention these figures,” he added.
Speaking pointedly about his successor, President Jonathan said, “When the president (Buhari) paid official visit to the US, there were some figures that were mentioned that I don’t believe.”
He drew attention to figures like the $150billion alleged to have been stolen in previous Nigerian administrations, but Mr. Jonathan scoffed at the probability of “$150 billion American money” being missing and “Americans will not know where it is,” adding that at any rate President Buhari did not accuse his administration.
“He didn’t say my government, he said previous administrations… “$150 billion is not 150 billion Naira,” he stated, suggesting, “People play politics with very serious issues.”
The former president was equally dismissive of people who alleged that the sum of $59.8 million was misappropriated within a 12-month period while he was in office.
“In Nigeria, if you lose $59.8 million in a year, federal and state governments will not pay salaries,” he said, adding that there is no way Nigerian budget can accommodate such a loss without the country coming to a standstill.
“Of course we brought international audit teams, forensic auditors and they didn’t see that,” he said.
The former President said he does not want to join issues with the new government, “I wanted to keep away from the public for at least twelve months.”
It would be recalled that the Presidency through the Special Assistant on Media and Publicity, Mr Femi Adesina had alleged, Tuesday, that Dasuki had “awarded fictitious and phantom contracts worth around $2 billion for jets, helicopters and ammunition for the army to fight the jihadist Boko Haram group which were never delivered.’
Under Buhari’s predecessor Goodluck Jonathan, when Dasuki was in office, Boko Haram took control of parts of Nigeria’s northeast where it is trying to carve out an Islamic state.
This is even as Dasuki denied in a statement Wednesday that all contracts and accruing payments were made based on the approval of his former boss, Jonathan, adding that due process and military procurement regulations were followed in all the transactions.
“Nigerians should note that all the services generated the types of equipment needed, sourced suppliers most times and after consideration by the Office of the NSA, the President will approve application for payment,” said Dasuki.