The world shuddered with great unbelief when Nigerian government tried frantically, albeit unsuccessfully, to defend the allegations of money laundering, terror financing and armed smuggling arising from the impounded 9.3 million dollars cash smuggled to South Africa via a private jet belonging to the President Goodluck Jonathan’s personal friend and unapologetic ally, Pastor Ayo Oritsejafor, the President of the Christian Association of Nigeria, CAN.
South Africa said the amount is above the limit of cash allowed into the country. The scandal was so big and very indefensible that the South African authorities found the Nigerian government’s explanation untenable and unacceptable.
On the basis of this, lawyers Femi Falana and Festus Kiyamo, Professor Ishaq Akintola of Muslim Rights Concern, Dr Olapade Agoro (Founder Aladura Christians Communion) and millions of Nigerians who have suffered trauma, loss of business, family members, the Chibok girls proclaimed: #Oritsejaforhasacasetoanswer!
While Pastor Olapade Agoro queried the rationale for Oritsejafor’s action, Otunba Dino Melaye posited that Oritsejafor should be arrested and investigated.
It would be recalled that the Catholic Church pulled out of the Oritsejafor-led Christian Association of Nigeria because of the way he runs the Association, citing politicization and his attitudes, unbefitting of a clergy of his status. It accused Oritsejafor of fast turning an erstwhile, most revered association of Christians in Nigeria to a moribund one, converting a supposedly non-partisan religious body to a political platform.
Cardinal Olubunmi Okogie, one of the founders of CAN who ruled the organisation for eight years, declared: Oritsejafor is finished, can is damaged! He said ‘’Oritsejafor is making a mockery of the association by his closeness to President Goodluck Jonathan and the ruling Peoples Democratic Party, describing him as “fallen from grace to grass”,
Cardinal Okogie said Mr Oritsejafor’s has also lost grip of the leadership of CAN, adding that his Oritsejafor “unrighteous” quest to remain in power and his “romance” with politicians have finished him and derailed the once respected Christian body from the lofty dreams of its founding fathers.
Many NGOs, including the Centre for Global Peace Initiative (CGPI) called for plausible explanation just as many rights organisations and Muslim groups, particularly Muslim Rights Concern, MURIC and MPAC Nigeria demanded for an independent investigation.
This was followed by a Press Conference held on Tuesday 23 September, 2014 by the Conference of Islamic Organisations (CIO) in Lagos.
In attendance were Sheikh Abdurrahman Ahmad, National Missioner/Chief Imam of Ansar Ud Deen Society of Nigeria, Prof. Is-haq Akintola, Director MURIC, Sheikh Abdurrahman Adangba, Chief Missioner of Fathiu Quareeb Society of Nigeria, Sheikh Ishaq Adebayo Tejdini, Chief Imam/Missioner of Rahmat Islamiyyah Society of Nigeria, Mallam Qasim Badrudeen, Immediate past Amir, MSSN Lagos Area Unit, Sheikh Muhammad Olatunji, Amir of Zumratu Rashideen, Abdulwahab Adetunji of The Muslim Congress and Imam Abdullahi Shuaib, the Coordinator of CIO among others.
The gravity of the issue could not but polarise the Nigerian MPs as the opposition members of the House of Representatives staged a walk-out when the House presided over by its Deputy Speaker, Ike Ekperemadu attempted to sweep the matter under the carpet by referring it to a committee rather than allow it to be discussed at the plenary. The members, mostly of the All
Progressive Congress resorted to calling on Nigerians to take their faith into their hands after they were arm-twisted by the majority in the House.
Among those who found the act despicable is a human rights activist and Lagos-based lawyer, Festus Keyamo.
Keyamo picked holes in the position of the Federal Government regarding the matter. The government’s spokesman, Rueben Abati said the seized money belonged to the Nigerian Government, and a huge sum is meant to buy weapons for the soldiers fighting insurgency. But Keyamo described the defence as not only ludicrous, but also laughable, asking why the Nigerian government would seek to smuggle cash into the country without disclosure if it were indeed, for a legitimate transaction?
Keyamo wondered why a government which claimed to be at the forefront of cashless policy campaign would launder such large sum of money by cash out of the country. He also found the government’s explanation to have resorted to purchasing weapon from South Africa because of procedural bottlenecks in the purchase of such items from Western countries, concluding the story is only fit to be told to the marines.
The Lagos based lawyer queried; if indeed the transaction was a legitimate one, why was the money moved by a private jet and by private individuals and why were they not accompanied by the officials of the Department of State Services or the office of the National Security Adviser in official capacities?
He also asked to know whether it is really faster and safer to do an international transaction of such magnitude by ferrying cash across the continent or by a simple wire transfer that can go through in a matter of few minutes or few hours
In Keyamo’s words, If contrary to the above posers, the transaction was contracted out to a private company in Nigeria, does it not amount to the offence of Money Laundering under our laws for the Government that is at the fore front of cashless policy campaign to have allowed such company to attempt to pay for the equipment by cash to the tune of that amount without passing through a financial institution?
From the way the entire scenario is wrapped in secrecy, globally, transactions that are done in a huge volume can only be illegal dealing for an illegal purpose that is meant to be untraceable.
He surmised that to an average Nigeria, the operation is a covert and illegal one that went horribly wrong and that the Government’s position and explanation is a cock-and-bull story meant to be shoved down the throat of undiscerning Nigerians.
Keyamo further concluded that what the explanation succeeded in doing is to rather buttress the fact that billions of Nigerian monies that could be used to develop the nation are being smuggled out of the country on a regular basis with the connivance of the security agencies and under the auspices of the presidency.
To me, this can only justify the allegation of the former Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria, Sanusi Lamido Sanusi of huge corruption in high offices. It would be remembered that the issue that saw the pre-mature exit of the Governor was the same that brought in pro-ATM Godwin Emefiele and still sustaining the Minister of Petroleum, Allison Madueke in office. If not, which financial institution would have arranged 9.3 million dollars cash of new notes?
One plausible thing a responsible government would do in this circumstance is to own up, set up an independent investigative panel of men of repute, name the two faceless Nigerians involved in the transaction, and apologise to the nation rather than vain-gloriously papering over irreparable cracks. If the president does not disown Oritsejafor, the fear is that mere setting up of an inquiry will not suffice, it may only go the way of Stella Odua’s case, petroleum subsidy fraud and pension scam amongst many others. An attempt to save a drowning clergy at the expense of national pride and reputation is rather too costly.
Anything to the contrary will simply lend credence to the Australian negotiator’s indictment of, and the Northern Elders’ allegation of genocide against the former Chief of Army Staff, Lt General Azubuike Ihejirika, the involvement of former Governor of Borno State, Senator Ali Modu Sheriff as well as the culpability of Ayo Oritsejafor and the complicity of the Nigerian Government in the money laundering, terror financing and armed smuggling allegations.
In this vein, a little comparison of governance in Nigeria with South Africa is apposite for a feel of how low we have gone as a nation. According to a report:
‘’The South Africa Revenue Service (SARS) seized the money initially because it was not disclosed at customs, said Nathi Mncube, the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) spokesperson. Two black plastic suitcases, filled with 90 blocks each containing US$100,000 in notes, with combination locks, were seized, as well as two pieces of hand luggage also containing US currency.
‘’Eyal Mesika, of the Isreali security company had the combination to open the locks. Investigations by South African authorities uncovered an invoice from Tier One Services, a subsidiary of the Tier One Services Group Limited, to Cyprus-based company ESD International Group Ltd.
‘’A statement on the company’s website states that Tier One Services Group “provides aviation, logistics, security, risk management support and specialised training services to organisations and individuals operating in austere and challenging environments.” Its offices are spread across the Middle East and Africa.
‘’The invoice from Tier One to ESD was for armaments and helicopters, according to Mr. Mncube. “In court papers, the NPA submitted evidence that Tier One is not registered with the National Conventional Arms Control Committee and is thus not authorised to enter into any agreements regarding the sale and/or rental of military equipment.”
‘’The agreement between Tier One and ESD was concluded on September 8, according to a South African press, three days AFTER the money was seized at Lanseria. Last Friday, a North Gauteng High Court granted the NPA’s asset forfeiture unit an order for the freezing of the cash.
“The NPA submitted to the court that, although various explanations about the money were given to the investigating officer, these explanations were flawed and riddled with discrepancies,” Mr. Mncube said.
My sincere advice for our president is that no matter how long he stays in office, he would one day leave the stage and join the likes of Shehu Shagari, Ibrahim Babangida and Olusegun Obasanjo. He should know that no matter how secretive the affairs of governance are pursued, some would be privileged to know about them, and they will definitely be part of writing the history of this administration.
Our President should know that Nigerians today have become more sensitive. The old story that Boko Haram exists because Northerners do not want Jonathan is no longer credible. Or how could they be killing themselves, slaughtering their sons and raping their own daughters without throwing a single bomb outside their enclave just because they don’t want Jonathan to rule?
We now know that there are more than one Shekaus. The old teevee picture of Shekau is different from the new one and it is now clear that most of the Shekaus threats shown on teevee were stage-managed. We still remember vividly that the head of security operatives have consistently said they know where the Chibok girls are and they would soon be released.
In fact, MPAC Nigeria posited that the whole exercise is a conspiracy against the Muslims judging from Jonathan’s undisguised hatred for Islam and the North (remember the Confab composition) and Oritsejafor’s belligerent disposition towards his Muslim neighbors.
Some are already insinuating that President Jonathan and the CAN President are both planning for ethnoreligious war and financing Boko Haram against the Nigerian army. Some submitted that the weapons were actually meant for Boko Haram, revealing the answer to who the sponsors of Boko Haram are. Others simply deduced that the weapons are meant for the kinsmen of both Jonathan and Oritsejafor- the Niger Delta militants to prosecute the likely conflagration that could ensue, in case the North gangs up to deny Jonathan Presidency come 2015 and /or if the South-South region eventually decides to secede.
Nigerians have not forgotten how the Chibok Girls abduction was tactically and strategically managed or is it mismanaged to prevent early rescue of the girls and how our military was made to look helpless in the face of Boko Haram’s onslaught. Nigerians still remember the allegation of Amnesty International which reported that the Nigerian military unbelievably refused to act to prevent the Chibok abduction despite the fact that they received intelligence report of the abduction four hours before the militants arrived.
Information emerging after the President seemed to have secured the ticket to run again as President in 2015, are indicating that the North East will more likely now have relief from Boko Haram attacks.
The recent news has it that the Chibok girls would soon be released; Shekau likely to be dead again and some insurgents are surrendering and turning in their weapons with promise of rehabilitation and reintegration into the society.
It is also being insinuated that if none of the Northern Governors decamps to the opposition and no PDP politician of Northern extraction comes out to reject the adoption of Jonathan as the sole presidential candidate, the North will be spared of the antics of Jonathan and his kinsmen, including CAN president Oritsejafor.
Nigerians of all religions should therefore continue to pray fervently for one indivisible nation and beg the Almighty that all the enemies of this great country from within and without be destroyed before 2015 just as Pharaoh was destroyed in Egypt.
The South African government and its enforcement authorities should therefore continue to stand with humanity, honesty and for peace until investigations are concluded to establish the innocence or otherwise of Oritsejafor since it appears justice can only be expected from South Africa.
With a national disgrace brought by this seizure on South African soil on the illegally chartered private jet belonging to the foremost leader of CAN whose speeches on the insurgency have favoured escalation of the crisis, this whole scenario is more than meet the eye.
Nigerians are watching; Time will tell!