$2.1bn arms scandal: Jonathan, ex-ministers in cold war
Former President Goodluck Jonathan is pitted in cold war with some of his ex-ministers who are on trial over the $2.1 billion arms scandal, N23.29 poll cash and other financial frauds.
Some of the ex-ministers are said to be angry with Jonathan for allegedly abandoning them after they were arrested by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC).
They are also shocked that the ex-President neither assisted nor hired lawyers for them.
They want Jonathan to own up on the disbursement of the funds and open talks with his successor, President Muhammadu Buhari, on plea bargain.
But the ex-President is said to be shocked by revelations from the EFCC concerning some of the ex-ministers.
It was learnt that Jonathan wants the ongoing investigation and trial to run its full course.
An investigation conducted by our correspondent indicated that all is not well between Jonathan and his ex-ministers.
The cold war has worsened to the point that when Jonathan met some of the former ministers, he did not ask them why they were arrested or treated the way the EFCC has done.
One of the ex-ministers was said to be close to tears when Jonathan exchanged pleasantries with him without a mention of his ordeal in EFCC’s custody.
The overwhelmed ex-minister had always claimed that he “ran errands for Jonathan on the slush funds traced to him.”
A reliable source said: “Our camp has broken into two. The ex-President is on one side and the embattled ex-ministers is on the other.
“The cold war is a result of the ongoing arrest and trial of some former ministers and aides of Jonathan.
“Some of the ex-ministers and aides are angry that Jonathan was not owning up or rising in their defence over the allegations levelled against them.
“Some of them are feeling bad that Jonathan has neither hired lawyers to defend them nor met with President Muhammadu Buhari for plea bargain on some cases.
“A few others accuse him of not taking care of their families while they were in detention.”
Responding to a question, the source said: “I remember during one of our meetings, Governor Nyesom Wike spoke with anger on how some of us also betrayed Jonathan.
“The situation has degenerated to the extent that most of the former PDP governors do not visit Jonathan anymore.”
A former minister, who spoke in confidence, said some of the embattled ministers were being unrealistic.
The source said: ”These ex-ministers cannot blame Jonathan for their travails at all.
“The ex-President was just hearing of some of these huge sums for the first time. Some of these funds were released under the guise of security votes without his approval.
He has been devastated on the allegations against some ex-ministers.
“In some cases, withdrawals and disbursements from the treasury exceeded his approval.
“It will be extremely difficult for the ex-President to own up to everything.
“Even some ex-ministers from the North were alleged to have diverted some of these funds to either personal use or to mobilize their supporters against Jonathan during the 2015 poll.”
On legal representation, the source added: “At a point, Jonathan assembled a team of Senior Advocates of Nigeria (SAN) to defend some of these ex-ministers and aides, but the legal team presented a bill running into billions of naira, which he said he could not afford. He had to abandon the plan.
“We have asked our colleagues to be considerate too. Jonathan is having his own share of the probe. Apart from his wife being investigated, his cousin and some of his associates are also on trial. This is enough an emotional burden to him.
“Despite the tightening of investigation noose around him, Jonathan came out recently to raise issues on the trial of Dasuki for the $2.1 billion arms scandal.
Some of the ex-ministers and aides under investigation are ex-NSA Sambo Dasuki; Nurudeen Mohammed; Sen. Musiliu Obanikoro; Bashir Yuguda; former Minister of Power, Mohammed Wakil; Bala Mohammed; Diezani Alison-Madueke; Oloye Jumoke Akinjide; Prof. Viola Onwuliri; ex-Minister Nenadi Usman; ex-Minister Senator Joel Ikenya; Chief billion for Operation Capture Lagos and N1.2 billion reimbursement expenses after stepping down for the governorship candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in Lagos State, Mr. Jimi Agbaje, during the 2015 general election.
A reliable source said: “The former Minister is under fresh probe on some cash advanced to him personally by ONSA and the presidency for the 2015 poll.
“These funds include alleged N3.5 billion for Operation Capture Lagos and a personal loss reimbursement of N1.2 billion.
“After Agbaje became the governorship candidate, Obanikoro was not only returned as a minister, his expenses during primaries, amounting to about N1.2 billion, were refunded to him.
“He personally submitted the bill and he was reimbursed by the presidency. All the key actors who knew about the reimbursement are still alive.
“We are investigating him on this N4.7 billion. If he has no case to answer on poll funds, we will leave him. But if there is a prima facie case, he will face a separate trial.”
In an earlier case, about N4.685 billon was allegedly transferred by the Office of National Security Adviser (ONSA) to Sylvan McNamara Limited, a company linked with a former Minister of State for Defence, Mr. Musiliu Obanikoro.
Out of the sum, about N3.880 billion was allegedly transferred to both Governor Ayodele Fayose and Senator Iyiola Omisore through cash and bank transfers by Obanikoro.
The former minister was asked by the EFCC to account for the balance, which the ex-Minister claimed was spent on a campaign against Boko Haram in the South-West.
After weeks in detention, Obanikoro refunded N100.4 million to the EFCC with an undertaking for the return of about N480 million.