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Discordant Tunes, Legal Fireworks Trail Release Of Looters’ List

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The Federal Government has in the last two weeks released in two batches, names of 29 Nigerians who allegedly looted the nation’s treasury. ADEBIYI ADEDAPO in this report captures perception of Nigerians on the lists, as well as reactions from the alleged looters

Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, penultimate week, released a list of six Nigerian leaders who allegedly looted the nation’s treasury.

Barely a week later, another list of 23 names was released and the government has said it was compiling fresh names of alleged looters, which is expected to be released soon.

The fresh list, according to media reports will shock Nigerians, as it had been gathered that it will include names of former governors, ministers, bankers and others in the private sector.

The Minister had consistently stated that some 55 persons stole N1.34tn under the administration of former President Goodluck Jonathan.

The first list of looters, as released by the minister, featured names of those who allegedly took money illegally from the office of the former National Security Adviser, Col. Sabo Dasuki (rtd.).

However, the lists generated controversy in the polity, as it was gathered that it contained only names of members of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) while politicians who had defected from the party to the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) have their names conspicuously omitted.

The names featured on the alleged looters’ lists also include that of the PDP Chairman, Uche Secondus, who was alleged to have collected the sum of N200 million from the office of the former NSA; former National Publicity Secretary Olisah Metuh, who is on trial for allegedly collecting the sum of N1.4bn from the same office.

Others are Dr. Raymond Dokpesi, Chairman of DAAR Communications, who is on trial for allegedly collecting the sum of N2.1 billion from the office of the former NSA. Former Senior Special Adviser (SSA) to ex-President Goodluck Jonathan, Dudafa Waripamo-Owei, who is facing trial over N830 million allegedly kept in accounts of four different companies, and former President Goodluck Jonathan’s cousin, Robert Azibaola, who is also facing trial for allegedly collecting the sum of $40 million from the office of former NSA.

On the second list, former NSA Sambo Dasuki’s name was prominent, based on the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) investigations.

This, according to the government is different from the ongoing $2.1 billion military equipment scandal as, a total of N126 billion, over $1.5 billion and 5.5million British Pounds was allegedly embezzled through his office.

Others alleged to have stolen from public treasury included former Petroleum Resources Minister Dieziani Alison-Madukwe. In one of the cases the EFCC is investigating, about N23 billion was alleged to have been embezzled by her.
Also, former Chief of Defence Staff, Alex Badeh, has questions to answer over N8 billion fraud, but EFCC recovered almost N4 billion in cash and property already. Others are former Comptroller General (CG) of Nigerian Customs Services, Abdullahi Dikko, allegedly looted N40 billion, and N1.1 billion in cash recovered in cash and choice properties. The list included a number of other individuals.

Despite the criticism that the above mentioned individuals have not been convicted by any court of law, the government insisted that the list is based on verifiable facts, including the amount involved, the date the amount in question was collected and from where it was taken.

But the National Chairman of the PDP, Prince Uche Secondus, has dragged the minister, Mohammed to court for defamation of character. The PDP Chairman said he was embarrassed by the minister’s claim.

Secondus had through his lawyer, Emeka Etiaba (SAN ), noted that he did not collect money and asked the minister to retract his statement. He also asked for the payment of N1.5bn as damages and a public apology within 48 hours.

In the letter, Secondus threatened that should Mohammed fail to meet his demand after 48 hours , “We shall within 72 hours from today, proceed to a court of competent jurisdiction to ventilate our client’s rights under the law and shall further seek the protection of the court against you.”

Having failed to meet the demand, Secondus made good his threat and filed a suit at the High Court, Port Harcourt, Rivers State, asking the court to award the sum of N1.5bn to him as damages for humiliation, castigation, vilification attack on his person and integrity as a result of the publication.

According to a statement issued by the PDP National Chairman’s Media Office, which was signed by his spokesperson, Mr. Ike Abonyi, Secondus, in the suit numbered: /PHC/1013/2018, is also claiming that Mohammed’s publication is defamatory.

He, therefore, asked the court to direct Mohammed to retract the said publication and apologise to him in writing.
He is also seeking the court to compel the minister to publish the retraction and apology in the five major newspapers and television stations. At the same time urged the court to grant a perpetual injunction restraining the defendant from further publishing defamatory materials against him.

Joined in the suit are the Federal Government of Nigeria through the Attorney General of the Federation and the Vintage Press Limited, publishers of The Nation Newspapers.

In the same vein, a chieftain of the PDP and founder of Daar Communications Plc. Dr. Raymond Dokpesi, also wrote a pre-litigation letter to the Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, for including his name on the list of alleged looters which the minister recently made public.

In the letter, dated April 4, 2018, Dokpesi, through his lawyer, Chief Mike Ozekhome (SAN), said Mohammed defamed him by stating on the list that he (Dokpesi) looted N2.1billion.

Ozekhome contended that contrary to Mohammed’s “derogatory, disparaging, mendacious and unrestrained defamatory statement as published in various print, electronic and online media platforms, our client (Dokpesi) has never been associated with looting of public treasury.”

Ozekhome said Dokpesi had denied the “trumped-up charges” which the Federal Government filed against him.
He said Mohammed had with his “brazen defamatory statements clearly rubbished the hard-earned reputation of our client,” adding that Dokpesi had been bombarded with phone calls, mails and visits by his friends and well-wishers since Mohammed released the looters’ list.

“Our client has suffered severe odium, opprobrium, ridicule, psychological trauma, untold embarrassment and countless business loses consequent upon your reckless publication, which has put him in a bad light before reasonable members of the society.”

He, therefore, demanded an apology to be published in four national newspapers.
He also demanded payment of N500m to redress “the incalculable damage done to our client’s hard-earned image and reputation.”

Ozekhome said if Mohammed failed to meet his client’s demands, he would head for court, stressing that “a stitch in time saves nine.”

Meanwhile, the PDP has said the the Presidency and the ruling APC designed the alleged looters list to divert attention of Nigerians from discussions in the polity.

The party however noted that APC have failed in its ploy to use their looters lists to divert public discourse from the raging questions on their numerous scandals, manifest sleazes and overall failures in governance.

The PDP, in a statement by its National Publicity Secretary, Kola Ologbondiyan, said the nation has now seen that the Federal Government has no case against the PDP, as the lists only have individuals who are not indicted or convicted for corruption, some of who are not even members of the PDP.

The opposition party alleged that the whole essence of the list was to “cause public misperception, ‘change the topic’, and divert international and national discourse from various serious issues including:

“The parlous state of the nation’s economy caused by President Muhammadu Buhari’s misrule, for which Nigerians are now resorting to vices, including slavery and suicide as options.

“The intensive global vote of no confidence on President Buhari-led APC-government, particularly on its painful anti-people policies, as presented in damning verdicts by international figures, the latest being the world renowned Bill Gates.

“The vote of no confidence on the Buhari administration by eminent statesmen, including former President Olusegun Obasanjo, former military President Ibrahim Babangida and former Minister of Defence and ex-chief of Army Staff, Gen. Theophilus Danjuma, who also indicted this administration of failure to protect the citizens.
“The international interest over speculation of conspiracy theorem on the alleged manipulation of security in the abduction and return of the Dapchi schoolgirls for which Amnesty International (AI) has called for an open inquest.
“The international embarrassment over alleged procurement of the Martin Luther King Jr. Award for President Buhari, which has now attracted global opprobrium to our dear nation and entire citizenry.

“The Transparency International (TI) latest verdict, indicting the Buhari-led government of superintending over the spiraling of corruption in Nigeria in the last three years.

“Efforts by the Buhari Presidency to conceal the N9 trillion corrupt oil contracts at the NNPC, alleged stealing of N1.1 trillion worth of crude oil, looting of N18 billion Internally Displaced Persons (IDP) intervention fund and the stealing of N10 billion National Health Insurance Scheme (NHIS), all by APC officials and Presidency cabal.

“The public resentment that trailed President Buhari’s last week’s visit to Lagos as well as his embarrassment at the National Mosque last Friday, where worshippers demonstrated their resentments to his administration and almost resorted to near mob action,” Ologbondiyan stated.

The party scribe however challenged APC to name members of the party convicted for corruption, and issued a three-day ultimatum to the APC to explain the source of looted fund to finance President Buhari’s 2015 campaign.
Meanwhile, members of different civil society organisations have erred their views on the controversial list.

Representatives of Amnesty International in Nigeria, Awal Musa Rafsajani, in his opinion said there was nothing wrong in publishing names of people Amnesty International in Nigeria, Awal Musa Rasfajanithat have actually looted the resources of the country.

According to him, looters have plunged Nigeria into the misery and if these persons were investigated and found to have committed that offence, it was right for their names to be disclosed.

He however expressed reservation about the timing as he observed that the names were published close to the 2019 elections.

“I have my reservations about the decision to publish their names. First, why has it taken the Federal Government so long to publish the names? The names were published months to the election season and the first interpretation Nigerians gave to the scenario was that it was a political witch-hunt.”

He also observed that the list does not reflect identity of APC members who are facing investigation for corruption.
Another civil society organisation, the Campaign for Democracy (CD) condemned the government’s decision to publish the list of alleged treasury looters.

The CD, in a statement by its General Secretary, Ifeanyi Odili, noted that the list lacked credibility because it contained names of the opposition Peoples Democratic Party members.

The civil rights group expressed disappointment in President Buhari’s administration for not including names of former PDP members, who are facing corruption charges in courts because they had defected to the ruling APC.
The CD alleged that the implication of such action was that corruption allegations against “the new friends of government” had been dropped on partisan grounds.

Also, the Nigerian Intervention Movement has criticised the Federal Government over the recently-published list of people who allegedly looted the treasury.

NIM, described the list as comical and shameful because no member of the All Progressives Congress was mentioned in the document.

It also wondered why names of former members of the Peoples Democratic Party, who recently defected to the APC, were missing on the list.

The movement, which is chaired by a former President of the Nigerian Bar Association, Dr. Olisa Agbakoba, and a former presidential aspirant, Dr. Abdujalil Tafawa-Balewa, said the looters’ list was as uninspiring as the ministerial nominees’ list published by President Muhammadu Buhari in 2015 after keeping Nigerians in suspense for nearly six months.

“The long awaited list itself, like the then list of nominated ministers, has turned out to be predictably disappointing and comical as it contained only names of opposition politicians who are currently facing trial in law courts.
“The surprise, if any, is that no single name of key players from the PDP who managed to defect to the now ruling APC, including those who have been indicted by judicial commissions in their various states, was included.
“Expectedly, this has given the now opposition party, PDP, the moral high ground to justify their alleged looting of our common patrimony.”

The NIM maintained that the APC and the PDP could not take Nigeria to the Promised Land. It, therefore, called on Nigerians to get their Permanent Voter Cards so that the two parties could be rejected at the polls next year.



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