•As light falls on the shady deals stacked up in the office of the former National Security Adviser, the sight seems so sore it’s almost driving President Buhari up the wall
FORMER NSA Sambo Dasuki has started singing in the EFCC custody since he got in December 2 to answer questions over his role in the $2.2 billion arms deal scandal. The song is worth a dance. First, it will save a bit of the investigation time for his overseas medical asylum the federal government rained off last month, in spite of a court order. And it will confirm the snippets of his story told when the Department of State Security swooped on him in November after President Muhammadu Buhari received the interim report from his arms probe panel.
“The good thing is that some of the key actors in the present administration were parts of the past process being viciously challenged,” Dasuki said after his initial arrest. He has yet to name names in the unfolding whodunit. But his responses might have been dropping cues assisting the anti-graft agency in following the money. And a thread runs through them all: the monies were diverted to bankroll the PDP campaigns, and the names are mostly those of the big noises in the party now and before. No fewer than 22 suspects, including staffers in the office of the NSA, are kicking their heels in the EFCC coop. And in days ahead, more notable PDP leaders, said the party’s’s publicity secretary Olisa Metuh, who have similarly been listed for arrest may join them.
One among the actors Dasuki hinted are still on the stage in the current administration has heaved into sight—sketchily, though, in the media. The Cable News, in its Nov. 30 exclusive report, stated that a principal officer of the eighth National Assembly, who was a senator then, could have got billions of naira from Dasuki after the last general elections. The former NSA, the report says, had withdrawn N60 billion from the CBN, on the order of ex-President Goodluck Jonathan. “It is believed in security circles that N20 billion [of the N60 billion] went to the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), the former president’s party, apparently to finance the 2015 electioneering,” the Cable states.
The senator was said to have suspected the illegalities, and was going to blackmail the apex bank under Gov. Godwin Emefiele— except the bank offered him N5 billion payola.
Another online platform, however, was more forthcoming, nailing Sen. President Bukola Saraki, who, then, was no fan of the former president under whose nose the arms supply contracts went awry. As recently as May 2015, says Sahara Reporters, Saraki received N250 million from CBN officials. “The cash transfer was deemed part of the hush payment to ensure that Mr. Saraki keep quiet about the questionable withdrawals ostensibly meant for arms purchases,” it adds, quoting a CBN whistle blower.
But the Senate president has denied involvement in such, describing the online report as blackmail that will be challenged legally. “For record purposes, Dr. Saraki did not collect any money from any official of the CBN in respect of any arms deal,” said Yusuph Olaniyonu, media adviser to Saraki. “The Senate President also challenges Sahara Reporters or any official of the apex bank, senator, serving or past, who witnessed or participated in any sharing of the alleged money purported to have been received by him, to come out with evidence.”
Attahiru Bafarawa isn’t in the current administration. Paper trails, however, have led the investigators to the former governor of Sokoto, especially his son Tagir. Acting as a mule for his father, he got N4.6 billion from the NSA office, according to the EFCC.
Former defence minister and one-time chairman of the PDP, Haliru Bello Mohammed, has also been taken in by the commission. He, through his son, too, was said to have received N600 million from Dasuki. That amount was just about half of N1.5 billion former FCT minister Bashir Yuguda also got from the NSA office.
The biggest payout so far went to Raymond Dokpesi, a PDP stalwart and media magnate who owns the Daar Communications. Sure he’s not a gun runner, and sources within the EFCC confirmed no arms supply contract was pinned down to the money he got. It was so noiseless the company lawyer was not aware of the inflow either. “We wrote them a reply to say Daar did not do any contract with the office of the NSA and we are ready to give them all the information they need,” said Mike Ozekhome, explaining to an online publication his response when the EFCC enquired.
But, somehow, Dokpesi had his explanation for being part of the largesse flowing out of the office of Nigeria’s foremost spymaster. “The N2.1 billion that he collected from the former NSA was payment for publicity and media political campaigns during the 2015 general elections,” a statement from Dokpesi’s family stated in part after he was held down at the EFCC following his invitation.
The opposition is uncomfortable with how he is being frisked over the payment. It noted that the ruling APC was coming after Dokpesi because of his romance with the PDP. “The military style of pronouncement of guilt on Chief Dokpesi before any fair hearing, betrays the fact that he is a victim of political persecution and mob trial by the APC government,” said Metuh.
Some analysts are, however, worried about the PDP playing the martyr now. They argue that funding of media campaigns is a party affair; it’s no expenditure to be financed by the office of the NSA sitting atop defence budgets and military intervention funds. Many also insist, no matter what, the investigations are still in order—only that President Buhari would have to respect the court more.
Dasuki, after all, has been presenting hard facts about the contract. “To show that I have nothing to hide, I submitted a comprehensive list of all requests for procurements by the services, the items bought and the equipment being awaited to His Excellency, President Muhammadu Buhari long before I left office,” Dasuki said in a press release he entirled “My Story”.
Among the capabilities he claimed were already delivered to the military include 14 armoured tanks, uniforms, installations of CCTV cameras at the Brigade Headquarters, two backscatters bomb detection vans, and others. Dasuki also said he paid out N30 million for RCA as operation allowance for troops on Op Urban Sweep II for third and fourth quarters of 2014, among others.
And, besides that, not all the dole-outs which left the NSA office were from the arms fund. “The office of the National Security Adviser manages several funds for national security and other special interventions which are not related to Boko Haram or arms procurement,” said PRNigeria, an online public relations platform holding brief for Dasuki. As parts of the expenses on which the NSA spent, mundane tasks like capacity building, refreshment, travelling, office maintenance, crisis communication and supports to special causes and Non-Governmental Organisations.
His consistent emphasis on all this, plus the favourable court order have been drawing public sympathies to him so far. And some rights groups and social critics, including the Washington Times, had to flare up over President Buhari’s perceived high-handedness on the matter, especially for daring the court order. Dasuki had sought and got a court permission to travel out for medical checks. But after spurning that, and keeping him under house arrest for about a month, the DSS re-arrested and handed him over to the EFCC.
Buhari’s justice minister and attorney-general of the federation, however, explained away that disregard. Dasuki, to the federal government, is a high-profile security risk. He deserves every hard tackle. “It is not enough to conclude that the order was flouted,’ said Abubakar Malami. “You can be granted bail with respect to one case and there can be other cases that public policy demands investigation.” In case that is a strong enough reason for the federal government to hold onto the former NSA, there are possibilities the DSS and other agencies working on him will be able to squeeze out more information that will bring many more into the EFCC dragnet.
Dasuki has already said ex-President Jonathan approved of his spending the defence budget as NSA, including for campaign ads before the elections. It’s not impossible he will split his gut later to reveal the big-time defence contractors and the moneymen who revelled in the arms contract bazaar.