- It’s a Dangerous Undertaking – PDP
- Ex-president too Decent to be Violent – Ijaw Youths
Following reports that the Federal Government has launched a discreet investigation on the possible involvement of former President Goodluck Jonathan over the spate of bombings in the Niger Delta, prominent Nigerian lawyers have thrown their weight behind the probe and suggested how it should be conducted.
Credible sources had, on Thursday, revealed that the former president was being investigated over his alleged role in the bombings of oil facilities in the Niger Delta, an action that has crippled the country’s oil industry and affected its power generation capabilities.
As well as former President Jonathan, his wife, Patience, was also reported to be under the said probe, with the same allegations also leveled against her.
Media reports had quoted an intelligence source as disclosing that it had been established that some of the oil installations bombed in the Niger Delta had actually been mined while President Jonathan was in power, by some of the militants and operatives known to be very close to him.
The news of the probe came about a week after the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta (MEND) had accused the former president and some prominent politicians from the Niger Delta of masterminding the fresh attacks on oil installations in the region.
Jonathan has separately denied both the allegations by the security agents and MEND.
A Lagos-based human rights lawyer and Senior Advocate of Nigeria, Mr. Femi Falana, yesterday cautioned that whatever evidence the Federal Government might want to bring up against Jonathan over alleged relationship with Niger Delta militant groups must be “watertight.”
According to Falana, a very serious allegation on the relationship between a former president and a militant group was one that deserved to be handled carefully.
“It is a serious allegation that shouldn’t be made flippantly. The evidence should be watertight and handled carefully,” he said.
He also faulted security operatives for not acting promptly on the threats by some militant groups in the Niger Delta ahead of the 2015 presidential elections.
“During the campaigns, the groups threatened to break up the country if Dr Jonathan did not win the 2015 presidential election. Did the security forces monitor the groups after the elections? Are we not dealing with another case of failure of intelligence?
“Those who set up the Boko Haram sect are known to the state. Has the government moved against them? The militant groups in the Niger Delta were set up by politicians. Have they been asked to account? Surely, the state has lost the monopoly of violence to militant and terrorist groups. The incompetence of the ruling class has compounded the crisis of nation building,” Falana said.
Reacting to the development, constitutional lawyer and Professor of Law, Auwalu Hamisu Yadudu, said there was nothing wrong in probing Jonathan, provided the allegations leveled against the former leader were genuine.
Yadudu, however, cautioned that in view of his capacity as a former president, Jonathan should be treated with respect, dignity and should not be humiliated.
“Although some people are of the view that Jonathan should not be probed because he was defeated in election by President Buhari and so on, but in law that should not be a basis to exempt him from being probed if found wanting in committing some wrongdoings that warrant probe,” he said.
He, however, said the federal government should first establish whether the allegations against the former president were genuine or not before launching any probe.
“I will not encourage humiliating or maltreating the former president in the name of probe. Not only an ex-president, whoever is involved in this kind of situation should be treated fairly and justly.
“The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) and the Independent Corrupt Practices Commission (ICPC) have their mandates, so if the allegations against Jonathan fall within their mandates they should handle it,” he said.
Speaking in the same vein, another rights activist, Festus Keyamo, told Daily Trust on Sunday that the Federal Government must gather all the needed evidence to be able to prosecute the former president.
“Once the government has such evidence, it is left for it to determine what to do with it,” Keyamo said.
On his part, a constitutional lawyer, Festus Okoye, said the former president was not above the law and could therefore stand trial for breaking any law of the land.
Okoye, who is the executive director of the Human Rights Monitor, said: “As far as I am concerned, any individual that has committed any form of criminal offence or has committed any form of infraction should be investigated and tried, including former President Jonathan.
“There is no need to set up any panel, the former president is like anybody in the country, and you know that nobody is above the law. If he has a case to answer, he should be referred to either the ICPC or the EFCC, depending on his offence.”
He said the threat of secession by militants from the Niger Delta should not deter the Federal Government from looking into the activities of Jonathan’s administration, adding: “Why didn’t they threaten to do so when he (Jonathan) was our president and doing what he did. The country is for all us and we must all be seen to be working in the interest of the country. So we should not be threatened with secession.”
The Kaduna-based lawyer, added: “The fact that an armed robber is not arrested, does not mean that those who are arrested should not be tried. So, those who are saying why Jonathan alone do not mean well for the country. The fact that he was a former president makes the probe necessary.”
But another lawyer, Abeny Mohammed, a Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN), has warned that any attempt to investigate Jonathan may be interpreted to be a witch-hunt against the ex-president.
“This is not what the country needs at this time. This country is not a nation-state, as such we are just patching its up unity. That is why we must restructure this country so that the powers and finances are not concentrated at the centre while states cannot even pay salaries.
“The PDP government, which Jonathan led, was corrupt, but the Federal Government, in the probe of the government, have in their wisdom left him out. I know that the people who asked Jonathan to reach out to Buhari (after his defeat) may have a sort of agreement that says, in any event, he must not be probed,” he said.
It’s dangerous to probe Jonathan – PDP
Voicing the party’s reaction, the spokesman of the National Caretaker Committee of the PDP, Prince Dayo Adeyeye, said probing former President Goodluck Jonathan over the Niger Delta bombings portends danger to the nation’s democracy.
Prince Adeyeye, in a text message to our correspondent yesterday, said: “It’s a pure witch-hunt and a very dangerous precedent which portends grave danger for Nigeria’s democracy.”
Endless debate over Jonathan’s probe
To many watchers of unfolding political events in the country, the recent revelation to the effect that the Federal Government has launched an investigation on the possible involvement of former President Goodluck Jonathan over the spate of bombings in the Niger Delta has only added a new dimension to an enduring debate on whether or not the ex-president should be arrested and probed by the current administration.
How it all began
Soon after his exit on May 29, 2015 and the subsequent revelations that followed, especially with regards to the $2.1 billion arms deal, there have been divergent views as to whether or not the former president should be probed. While some feel that his arrest and prosecution would give a boost to the anti-corruption war of the President Muhammadu Buhari-led government, especially given the fact that most of those linked with the arms deal were officials and aides of the former president, others feel that doing so would amount to setting a dangerous precedent as no such thing had been done in the past.
At the centre of the arms deal is a former National Security Adviser of ex-President Jonathan, Col. Sambo Dasuki, who was appointed on June 22, 2012. President Buhari had ordered Dasuki’s arrest after receiving an interim report of the panel set up on August 31 to probe arms procurement between 2007 and 2015, which allegedly indicted him and others for diverting the arms purchase funds.
But the embattled former NSA, who is currently standing trial for the alleged misappropriation of $15bn arms procurement fund, denied any wrongdoing, saying he was only obeying the directive of his former boss in the disbursement of the funds from his office.
“Based on the service rules in the security circle, I owe it a duty to obey the President and Commander-In-Chief. Ex-President Jonathan approved all the expenses incurred by the Office of the National Security Adviser (ONSA). I am ready to prove in court how we complied with the directive of the ex-president,” Dasuki reportedly told his associates during a visit to him at the Kuje prison.
In a similar vein, Olisa Metuh, a former National Publicity Secretary of the PDP during President Jonathan’s tenure, was also arrested for allegedly receiving N400m from the Office of the National Security Adviser in November 2014. The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission is prosecuting Metuh and his company, Destra Investments Limited on seven counts. Metuh and his firm allegedly used the fund for the PDP’s presidential campaign ahead of the 2015 election.
Like in the case of Dasuki, Metuh denied any wrongdoing, even as the allegation concerning the N400m was also attributed to former President Jonathan’s approval.
A former Senior Special Assistant to ex-President Jonathan, Doyin Okupe, who appeared before a Federal High Court in Abuja to testify in defence of the former national spokesman of the PDP, reportedly said the payment of the money to Metuh by the NSA’s office was authorised by Jonathan.
According to Okupe, the instruction given by the former president for the payment of the money to Metuh followed a presentation which his campaign team had made at the Presidential Villa, adding that Jonathan himself had confirmed to him that he indeed authorised the payment of N400m to Metuh.
Another pointer to the fact that Jonathan may have indirectly come under investigation emerged recently with the arraignment of his cousin, Aziboala Robert, and his wife by the EFCC. The anti-graft body had arraigned the duo on a seven-count charge bordering on money laundering, criminal breach of trust and corruption. They pleaded not guilty to the charges.
The EFCC had, on March 23, 2016, arrested Robert, who is the managing director of Kakatar Engineering Company Limited, and an executive director of the company, Mr. Dakoru Atukpa, over a $40m pipeline contract they received from the Office of the NSA.
Mr. Robert and wife are accused of diverting $40m, purportedly meant for the supply of tactical communication kits for Nigeria’s special forces. The funds were alleged to have been transferred from the account of the Office of the National Security Adviser (ONSA), with the Central Bank of Nigeria to the domiciliary account of their company, One Plus Holdings.
It is based on these that some analysts believe that Jonathan and his government may have already come under probe by the Buhari administration since key players in his administration, including ex-ministers and former military chiefs, were either under probe or were facing trial.
The Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) is one body that believes the former president has questions to answer with respect to the alleged arms purchase deal. SERAP had sent an open letter to former President Jonathan, seeking explanations from him on what he knew on the diversion and sharing of over $2.1 billion meant for the purchase of arms to fight Boko Haram.
SERAP’s executive director, Mr. Adetokunbo Mumuni, in a letter said: “SERAP considers that there is enough material in the public domain to suggest that over $2 billion meant for purchase of arms to equip Nigerians soldiers fighting Boko Haram in the North-East of the country was diverted and shared among high-ranking government and party officials under your watch as President and Commander-in-Chief of Nigerian Armed Forces.
“SERAP, and indeed Nigerians, reserve the right to pursue justice through appropriate national and international accountability mechanisms to ensure that everyone involved in this heinous crime is brought to justice in accordance with international standards of fairness…”
Jonathan himself has reportedly said he was aware that he was under investigation by anti-corruption agencies in the country. During a live interview on Bloomberg Television after delivering a speech at the London’s studios of the media organisation, the former president said: “Of course, obviously, I will be investigated. I am being investigated. Yes, investigations are going on.”
It is based on the foregoing that many analysts were not surprised with the recent media report that the Federal Government has launched an investigation on the possible involvement of the former president and his wifeover the spate of bombings that have crippled the country’s oil industry and affected power generation capabilities.
Quoting intelligence reports, a top government source reportedly said that it had now been established that some of the oil installations bombed in the Niger Delta had actually been mined while President Jonathan was in power, just before the 2015 election, by some of the militants and operatives known to be very close to him.
“The mining was meant to be a “Plan B should they be removed from Aso Rock. The plan then was to cause confusion if the 2015 presidential election did not go as expected, in favour of the then incumbent. However, when the former president surprisingly conceded the election to President Muhammadu Buhari, there was both disappointment and confusion in the camp of those who had designed the plan, causing a suspension of the whole agenda,” the source was quoted as saying.
Earlier, MEND had declared that Jonathan was “a grand patron of the Niger Delta Avengers.” MEND’s claim was preceded by an earlier one by the Reformed Niger Delta Avengers (RNDA) that Jonathan was truly behind the formation of the dreaded group. Jonathan denied the allegations.
According to MEND, the former president was sponsoring the NDA to destabilise the government of President Buhari.
A statement signed by one Jomo Gbomo said Jonathan should not deny being the grand patron of the group, which had been blowing up oil facilities in the Niger Delta region.
“MEND cannot hold brief for the RNDA, which pointedly accused Mr. Jonathan of complicity in fueling the ongoing Niger Delta crisis and patronising the NDA, apparently for political reasons. We are, however, quick to point out the fact that the RNDA has merely vindicated MEND’s belief and conviction that the former president and his cronies, who lost the 2015 presidential election, were using the illegal and treasonable NDA platform to destabilise President Buhari’s government,” the statement had read.
‘Jonathan too decent to be linked to violence’
But the Ijaw Youth Council (IYC) members believe their kinsman is too decent to be linked with violence.
The president of the IYC, Udengs Eradiri, said Jonathan was a very peaceful man who was so decent to be linked to any act of violence. Eradiri was reacting to recent media reports that the Federal Government was investigating the level of the former president’s involvement in the activities of Niger Delta Avengers.
Eradiri, in a telephone interview with our correspondent in Port Harcourt, said those insinuating that the former president was involved in the formation of the Niger Delta Avengers were criminal elements that were rotting away in prison because of the heinous crimes they committed against the state.
He said that their recent altercation linking Jonathan to Niger Delta Avengers was a face-saving mission adopted to use Jonathan as a chess pawn to secure their freedom from prison.
According to him, the Federal Government was confused on those behind the bombings of oil installations, adding that the security agents should do a thorough job and fish out those behind such act. “It is very childish to link former President Jonathan to the activities of a group that is involved in violent activities. The man in question is a very peaceful man whose commitment to a better Nigeria is responsible for the peace everybody is enjoying now,” he said.
Meanwhile, following media reports about the proposed probe of Jonathan over his alleged links with the Niger Delta bombings, the former president swiftly dismissed the allegations.
A press release issued by his media aide, Ikechukwu Eze, reads: “There is no doubt that there exist such people who may have scores to settle with the former president but are now feeling frustrated by the fact that his national and international profile has continued to rise despite their recourse to endless muck-raking character assassination. Such people will stop at nothing to continue to throw obstacles, albeit futilely, on his path.
“From what we know about intelligence gathering, there is no responsible government agency that would rush, as claimed in the newspaper stories, to adopt the accusations of a questionable rebellious organisation as its own findings without applying the professional processes of rigour and due diligence.”
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