FG, Using Looters’ List To Divert Attention -PDP, Fear Of Losing 2019 Bid Forces Release Of List -NNPP – ‘Lai Mohammed Condemned EFCC Over 2007 Looters’ List’

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Rivers State PDP Chairman, Bro Felix Obuah (left), handing over the party's new register to Obio/Akpor PDP Chairman, Hon Chukwuemeka Aaron, during a meeting with local government chairmen and secretaries of the party in Port Harcourt, yesterday.

The Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) yesterday alleged that the Presidency and the All Progressives Congress (APC) were using the recently released looters’ list to divert “public discourse from the raging questions on their numerous scandals, manifest sleazes and overall failures in governance.”
A statement by PDP’s spokesperson, Kola Ologbondiyan said the nation had now seen that the Federal Government had no case against the PDP, as the looters’ lists only had individuals who were not indicted or convicted for corruption.”
The statement reads, “It is now a notorious fact that the whole essence of the flimsy and contemptible lists 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 speculations 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 resentment to his administration and almost resorted to near mob action.
“These are issues that cannot be swept under the carpet using any ploy whatsoever.
“While we still challenge the APC to name any members of the repositioned and rebranded PDP convicted for corruption, we wish to remind them that our three-day ultimatum to explain the source of looted fund to finance President Buhari’s 2015 campaign still subsists and no amount of blackmail or intimidation can stop Nigerians from holding the dysfunctional APC accountable.”
Meanwhile, the New Nigeria People’s Party (NNPP) has said that the list of alleged treasury looters recently released by President Muhammadu Buhari-led Federal Government targeting the opposition party indicates that the President was already enveloped in the fever of losing 2019 elections.
The Chairman of NNPP chapter in Bauchi State, Engineer Mohammed Barde disclosed this to newsmen in an interview in Bauchi.
The chairman lambasted the APC-led Federal Government under Buhari, saying the party’s failure informed their decision to manufacture the list of the so-called looters.
Barde stressed that there is no competent court of law that has tried and found some of them guilty, urging those listed to approach a competent court to challenge same.
“We expect the list should capture APC chieftains that were summarily disengaged from office linking to corrupt practices like former Secretary to the Federal Government, Babachir David Lawal and Mr Ayo Oke, sacked director general of the National Intelligence Agency (NIA), among others, but to our dismay, Buhari spared them just because they are APC members,” Barde fumed.
NNPP, according to Barde, will exhaust all avenues to ensure Buhari is removed through democratic process in 2019 elections.
It would be recalled that the Federal Government had released the list of treasury looters containing only opposition members recently.
Barde cautioned Buhari to henceforth stop intimidating the opposition through the Economic and financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) to his advantage ahead of the 2019 elections while herdsmen are being used as a third force with impunity.
The party described the move as unacceptable and undemocratic, especially where herders are allowed to kill and maim innocent citizens without any sanction by the Federal Government.
He challenged the Federal Government to immediately justify its stance by including APC members in the alleged looters’ list to substantiate their claims.
It would be recalled that, when the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) published a list of 135 individuals suspected of looting public treasury in 2007, Lai Mohammed and Garba Shehu roundly condemned the action, with Mr Mohammed describing it as “illegal and a reckless abuse of power” because it was aimed at muzzling the opposition.
Roughly 11 years later, the two now play leading roles as top administration officials in the area of communication, and Mr Mohammed is anchoring piecemeal publications of names of persons suspected to be fraudulent, including those whose cases are pending before the court.
The then chairman of the EFCC, Nuhu Ribadu, published the names in 2007 to deter the public from voting people with questionable public service background, especially those who had been subjects of corruption investigation.
“We are going to prevent past leaders from contesting elections by exposing their ills no matter how highly they are placed, because they plunged this country into tokunbo stage,” Mr Ribadu said in July 2006 while the names were being compiled. “It is not possible to have free and fair elections when corrupt people are allowed to contest elections. I know that I have made enemies and lost friends but the job must be done.”
In February 2007, a few weeks before the general elections, the EFCC published names of 135 persons suspected to be fraudulent, including then-Vice President Atiku Abubakar and dozens of governors and top politicians.
The list, which the EFCC described as “purely advisory” at the time, comprised 82 members of the opposition parties and 53 members of the ruling Peoples Democratic Party (PDP). Muhammadu Buhari, then-candidate of the opposition All Nigeria Peoples Party (ANPP), was not amongst those listed as corrupt and unfit for public office at the time.
At the time, Mr Mohammed was the spokesperson for the opposition Action Congress (AC) while Mr Shehu was the spokesperson for Mr Abubakar, the presidential candidate of the AC in the April 2007 general elections.
“We’re not surprised to see that they’re going for top opposition figures but only inconsequential people in the ruling party,” the AC said at the time. “It means nothing in law, it is in bad faith, illegal and a reckless abuse of power.”
Mr Shehu described the publication as “a piece of cheap blackmail,” and added that they were “studying the list and we are considering a legal option because we are sick and tired of these same baseless and careless charges that they keep bandying about,” according to the BBC.
Umar Yar’Adua, PDP’s candidate in the election who was favoured by then-President Olusegun Obasanjo, went on to win the election amidst widespread irregularities.
The group had written to Mr Mohammed asking for specific details about recovered funds, including those from whom anti-graft agencies had recovered public funds and assets. But Mr Mohammed rejected the FoI, citing legal implications.
The minister had on June 4, 2016 published funds and assets recovered and those under interim forfeiture by anti-corruption agencies, but failed to include names of those involved.
Mr Mohammed did not respond to our source request for comments about what influenced his decision to publish names of alleged looters after rejecting SERAP’s request for a detailed and more specific information about recovered funds.
It was not immediately clear whether Mr Mohammed is reluctant to publish the details of recovered loot because of associated discrepancies that the administration is still trying to work out.
In February, the finance minister, Kemi Adeosun, raised concerns about the gulf between the amount EFCC claimed to have recovered and what is actually in government treasury. Mrs Adeosun said the ministry was only about to account for N91 billion recovered funds since Mr Buhari assumed office in May 2015, as against about N739 billion Mr. Magu said had been recovered within two years.
Ileowo Kikiowo, an APC supporter, said Mr Mohammed’s action should be praised for its historic feat.
“For the first time in the history of this country, people are knowing what some individuals might have stolen from the public,” Mr. Kikiowo said. “Diezani Madueke is facing allegations of mismanaging billions of dollars.”
The analyst said there would be no legal backlash for the action because Mr Mohammed was careful enough to have indicated that the names were only suspects and their guilt or otherwise would be proven in courts.
“If you look at the list, you’ll see that they are named alleged looters, not that government has convicted, so they have no cases in court,” Mr. Kikiowo said.
“I commend the minister for publishing the names,” he added. “It would have been an embarrassment to the government if the PDP had gotten away with the challenge and this has nothing to do with politics but the country’s well-being.”
The decision to hold back information on recovered loot might be because some individuals said to have returned stolen money are either in the APC or associates of the president, said Chido Onumah, an anti-corruption activist.
“Jafaru Isah is said to be a close associate of the president, but the EFCC recovered millions from him in early 2016,” Mr. Onumah told our sorce by telephone yesterday afternoon. “Musiliu Obanikoro was a former PDP member but now in APC and we understand he also returned money to the EFCC.”
Mr Onumah, head of African Centre for Media and Information Literacy (AFRICMIL) said Mr. Mohammed’s action demonstrates “a lack of commitment in fighting corruption,” on the part of the government.
He also said Mr Mohammed switching sides was “natural and unsurprising” because “the difference between APC and PDP is six and half a dozen.”
“Even President Buhari himself was said to be involved in the return of Abdulrasheed Maina, a corruption allegation he has not denied,” Mr Onumah said.
Above all, Mr Onumah said, Mr Mohammed’s action betrays the Buhari administration’s “lack of confidence in the institutions of the state, especially the judiciary and anti-corruption agencies, to do their work.”
“They’re supposed to strengthen anti-corruption agencies,” Mr Onumah said “But this does not seem to be their interest because it is political season.”
He also said Mr Mohammed switching sides was “natural and unsurprising” because “the difference between APC and PDP is six and half a dozen.”
“Even President Buhari himself was said to be involved in the return of Abdulrasheed Maina, a corruption allegation he has not denied,” Mr Onumah said.
Above all, Mr Onumah said, Mr Mohammed’s action betrays the Buhari administration’s “lack of confidence in the institutions of the state, especially the judiciary and anti-corruption agencies, to do their work.”
“They’re supposed to strengthen anti-corruption agencies,” Mr Onumah said “But this does not seem to be their interest because it is political season.”