Again, APC, PDP battle over alleged looted funds
• Okonjo-Iweala denies diversion of rail project money • Ruling political grouping lists some ‘stolen trillions’ • Opposition party alerts Nigerians on ‘threat to democracy’ • FG plotting to destabilise Ekiti, says Fayose • Buhari moves to recover govt assets
THE move by President Muhammadu Buhari to recover alleged stolen funds has continued to pit the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) against the opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP).
Meanwhile, former Coordinating Minister for the Economy and Minister of Finance, Dr. Ngozi Okonjo- Iweala, has broken her silence on the alleged diversion of over $1 billion Lagos-Kano Chinese rail line project loan, saying it is not true.
The allegation was made recently by the Permanent Secretary in the Federal Ministry of Transport, Alhaji Mohammed Bashar, while briefing the President on the affairs of the ministry.
Also, the Federal Government yesterday said it would ensure that public office holders, who served under former President Goodluck Jonathan, return government property in their possession.
During an informal chat with the media in Abuja, last night, Garba Shehu, the senior special assistant to the President (Media and Publicity), said it was in line with the administration’s desire to ensure that those who stole government property, including funds, do not go scot-free.
Okonjo-Iweala, in a statement clarifying her position on the funds, insisted that the allegation was untrue because the China EximBank loan is not domiciled at the Federal Ministry of Finance but directly disbursed to the Chinese contractors handling the projects based on a satisfactory project assessment report by the supervising Federal Ministry of Transport.
She alleged that linking her to the alleged diversion was part of a grand design by some desperate Nigerians who have been mounting a campaign of calumny against her.
Going down memory lane, she said: “Since this story was first reported, we have continued to receive media inquiries regarding an allegation reportedly made by Bashar that a substantial part of a $1billion loan obtained from the China-EximBank by the Goodluck Jonathan administration for a Kano-Lagos rail project was diverted to other projects.
“I want to state categorically that there is no truth in the reported allegation. Anyone who is interested can cross-check with the China-EximBank or the Chinese Embassy.
‘‘It is noteworthy that even though President Buhari, in his reported comments on the allegation, made no reference to Dr. Okonjo-Iweala but rightly stressed the need for due process and transparency in the execution of public projects, a sponsored media campaign has once again been launched by political elements to make me the culprit in a non-existent scandal.
“The alleged diversion has no substance for the simple reason that the Kano-Lagos project was not even among the several strategic infrastructural projects across the country presented for funding by the China Exim Bank.
“In fact, it was the Lagos–Ibadan rail project, not Lagos-Kano rail project, that was proposed in the original application to the China-EximBank. But in the end, no funds were assigned for the Lagos-Ibadan rail project by the China-EximBank.
“It is also important to note that even if the alleged project was on the list of China-EximBank funded projects, diversion of any Chinese funds would have been extremely difficult because the terms of the contract and the processes would simply not have permitted such action.
APC, in a statement by its National Publicity Secretary, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, described as spine-chilling and mind-boggling the massive looting of the nation’s treasury by public officials, saying, nothing but total recovery of the funds will be acceptable to all patriotic Nigerians.
The party said anyone who attempts, either by deed or words to sabotage the recovery efforts is not a patriot and deserves nothing but public opprobrium.
But the PDP is drawing the attention of Nigerians and the international community to some acts, which it claims are not healthy for the nation’s democracy. The party said its fear is derived from the “facts of some conscious actions and inactions of the Buhari-led APC government that allegedly undermine critical institutions of democracy, emasculate the constitution and ostensibly set the stage for a return to dictatorship in Nigeria.”
Also, the Ekiti State Governor, Ayo Fayose, has urged Buhari to tread cautiously and be mindful of the body language of those hailing him today.
“The President should be cautious enough to know that the former Head of State, General Abdulsalami Abubakar-led National Peace Committee tactically told him to tread cautiously and be mindful of the fact that he is not heading a military government.”
The governor, who said he was not unaware of alleged plans to destabilise his government because of his stand on national issues, vowed not to be cowed by threats from any quarter.
The APC, while thanking Nigerians for their support for the Buhari administration in its tough but important task of tracing and recovering the loots, and also ensuring that the looters face justice, said: Truly, what sort of governance can go on if the billions of naira in a few hands are not recovered? In the first instance, the government needs every kobo it can muster to bring about the change it has promised Nigerians. Secondly, leaving such hair-raising funds in the hands of the few looters is dangerous, because they can use the funds to destabilise any government.
‘‘In fact, no one will be surprised if the looters use their dirty funds to sponsor public demonstrations against the government’s determination to recover the funds. Thirdly, allowing those who privatised the commonwealth to get away is offering a thumbs-up for looting. No responsible government will do that.”
APC said it is necessary to remind Nigerians of the kind of massive looting of the treasury that took place in the past few years, so they can better appreciate the seriousness of the issue at stake.
The party lists part of the alleged “stolen trillions” as:
* N3.8 trillion out of the N8.1 trillion earned from crude oil (2012-2015) withheld by NNPC;
* $ 2.1 billion from Excess Crude Account unaccounted for;
* N109.7 billion royalty from oil firms unremitted by Department of Petroleum Resources;
* $6 billion allegedly looted by some ministers of the last administration;
* 160 million barrels of crude worth $13.9 billion lost between 2009 and 2012;
* $15 million from botched arms deal yet to be returned to Nigeria;
* $13 billion in NLNG dividends mostly unaccounted for;
* N30 billion rice waiver; and
* N183 billion unaccounted for at the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC).
But PDP has faulted the figures which it described as imaginary. The party described as reckless, irresponsible and highly provocative, the APC’s statement
wherein the party bandied the figures against the previous administration “to suit a heinous purpose.”
PDP National Publicity Secretary, Chief Olisa Metuh, in a statement on yesterday said “the APC has again exhibited its emptiness and disgusting desperation for public approval.
“In trying to escalate their stock-in-trade of lies, wild allegations and falsehood, the APC failed to understand that their baseless fabrications are capable of throwing an unsuspecting nation into chaos.”
Stating that “the spate of fabrications by Lai Mohammed has become a sickening source of worry for well-meaning Nigerians including those in his party”, the PDP called on President Buhari and the APC as a party, to call their spokesman to order before he plunges the country into crisis with wild and unsubstantiated claims.
The PDP said instead of engaging in unnecessary playing to the gallery, the APC-led government should get serious with the fight against corruption by investigating and prosecuting corrupt persons, while moving on with the demands of governance, especially in fulfilling their numerous campaign promises for which they were voted into office at the centre.
PDP advises President on democratic ethos
Metuh said despite claims of being a converted democrat, Buhari has allowed, under his watch, an incessant violation of sections of the nation’s constitution, a development that has become a huge threat to democracy and the stability of the nation.
“For instance, how can this government explain the fact that a major institution of democracy like the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) has been deliberately debilitated to the extent that it can no longer perform its statutory responsibilities?
“This development has completely enervated the commission from carrying out its functions as stipulated in part 1 of 3rd schedule of the 1999 constitution as amended, thereby putting our electoral system under severe threat.
“We ask, if not for a possibility of an ulterior motive to inject a constitutional crisis and undermine the nation’s democracy, why should President Buhari wait to be urged before he upholds his responsibility of forwarding replacements to the Senate for confirmation so as to enable the commission effectively carry out its constitutional responsibilities to the nation?
“The intolerance of the APC and the glaring insensitivity of this government, in spite of the outcries of well-meaning Nigerians against their undemocratic leanings, raise fears about the future of our democracy and the general health of our dear nation.
Fayose alleges ‘plot to destabilise Ekiti’
According to a statement issued by Fayose’s Special Assistant on Public Communications and New Media, Lere Olayinka, the governor said: “Opposition is one of the roots on which democracy stands and any president or governor that does not want opposition will eventually become a dictator.
“I want to state without fear or favour that I will continue to speak the truth no matter whose ox is gored.
“Nigeria belongs to all of us and no one can intimidate me or the good people of Ekiti State who freely and overwhelmingly gave me their mandate.”