President Muhammadu Buhati hinted yesterday that those who stole money and shared funds meant for the purchase of arms for the fight against insurgency were already regretting their actions and will regret the more.
He also stated that his administration will not hide anything from Nigerians in its resolute commitment to restore the economic fortunes of the country and deliver prosperity to Nigerians.
Receiving the Northern Christian Leaders, Eagle’s Eyes Forum at the State House, Abuja, the President appealed to the religious leaders not to lose hope in the unity, stability and progress of the country.
He said, “It is saddening that some of those who stole from our national resources put the money in their personal accounts. However, it is gratifying that those who stole money and shared funds meant for the purchase of arms for our military are regretting their actions and they will regret more.
“Those caught in corruption will have themselves to blame,’’ he said.
In his remarks, leader of the Forum, Pastor Aminchi Habu called on Nigerians to support the President’s anti-corruption war and his vision to restore the lost glory of Nigeria.
“In your administration, I see a new Nigeria where the fear of bribery, corruption and extortion is the beginning of wisdom. I see a new Nigeria, where tribalism, religion and ethnicity is no longer a barrier that separates us but a bond that unites us for a greater tomorrow”.
According to a statement issued by his special adviser on media and publicity, Mr. Femi Adesina, The President emphasised that the federal government will continue to prioritise the safety of lives and property, in addition to equipping Nigerian farmers with the right tools, technology and techniques to boost agriculture.
He said, “You must tell your followers the truth about the country. We have nothing to hide because we have no other country but Nigeria. Tell them to give us a chance to stabilise the country. Your concern for the security, unemployment, anti-corruption campaign and the frequent altercations between herdsmen and farmers are genuine concerns.
“I know the Ministry of Agriculture and the Governors Forum are doing a lot to resolve the lingering crisis between herdsmen and farmers, we must give them a chance”.
President Buhari thanked the Christian leaders for their support to the Federal Government’s anti-corruption campaign and other policies geared towards reviving the economy.
Former governor of Abia State, Orji Uzur Kalu said yesterday that the anti corruption crusade of the present administration of President Muhammadu Buhari was not sectional.
He stated this after meeting with former Nigerian leaders, General Ibrahim Babangida (IBB) and General Abdulsalami Abubakar behind closed doors in Minna, Niger State.
Speaking journalists after the two meetings, Kalu said that the present government has the right to ask questions about the finances of the past government and that those who are being investigated are individuals who handled the finances of the country in the administration.
Consequently, he posited that those who are saying that the anti-corruption war of the the PMB administration is selective are the ones who are biased in their reasoning and thinking on the anti-graft war.
“I do not believe that the anti-corruption war by President Buhari is selective. Someone may look at it in perspective that it is selective because it is the people in the previous government that are involved and this is because they are the ones who handled the money during that period,” he said.
He however urged the President to focus more on the economy of the nation. “I support President Buhari in the fight against corruption but as we are fighting corruption, we should also look at the industrial base of the country. No country can survive with only politics. The economy is very important to the nation”, he added.
On boosting the economy, Kalu appealed to the President to reopen all Bureau de Change that were closed down in the country because it was not all of them that were engaging in fraudulent activities.
Meanwhile, in what could best be described as moving with the tide, former Chief of Air Staff, Air Marshall Adesola Amosu, and 10 others, who are being tried for an alleged N22.8 billion fraud, yesterday told a Federal High Court in Lagos that they are willing to enter into a plea bargain arrangement with the federal government.
Amosu was arraigned on June 29, 2016 by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) alongside two senior serving Air Force officers, Air Vice Marshal Jacob Bola Adigun and Air Commodore Gbadebo Owodunni Olugbenga and seven companies before Justice Mohammed Idris.
Companies named in the charge are Delfina Oil and Gas Ltd, Mcallan Oil And Gas Ltd, Hebron Housing and Properties Company Ltd, Trapezites BDC, Fonds and Pricey Ltd, Deegee Oil and Gas Ltd, Timsegg Investment Ltd and Solomon Health Care Ltd.
The EFCC accused them of conspiracy, stealing, money laundering, concealing of proceeds of crime and conversion of funds belonging to the Nigerian Airforce to their personal use, around March 5, 2014, in Lagos.
They were also accused of concealing “proceeds of crime” and thereby committed an offence contrary to Section 18(a) of the Money Laundering (Prohibition) (Amendment) Act, 2012 and punishable under Section 17(a).
However, the defendants had pleaded not guilty to the charges, a development which made the trial judge, Justice Mohammed Idris to grant Amosun, Adigun and Olugbenga bail in the sum of N500m each with two sureties in like sum.
At the resumed hearing of the case yesterday, counsel to the EFCC, Rotimi Oyedepo informed the court that the defendants and the commission had commenced a process of negociating a plea bargain arrangement.
Oyedepo then tried to tender a draft copy of the terms of the plea bargain arrangement, which he told the court had been served on the defendants.
But counsel to the defendants, comprising Norrison Quakers (SAN), Chief Bolaji Ayorinde (SAN) and A. Etuokwu, opposed the move, stating that the business of the day was for report of compliance with the order of the court regarding the verification of the defendants’ bail conditions.
According to Quakers, the defendants were the ones who broached the idea of a plea bargain, they needed to be out of the EFCC custody first before they would be able to negotiate properly with the prosecution.
The lawyer also argued, “When a man is in a custodian environment, anything you want him to say, he’d say; anything you want him to do, he’d do. We should not be stampeded or boxed into a corner”.
He further pointed out that the draft copy of the plea bargain was only just served on the defence counsel on Friday morning, Quakers argued that defendants were entitled under Section 36(6)(b) of the 1999 Constitution to be given adequate time and facility to prepare their defence.
Ayorinde and Etuokwu toed the same line of argument, insisting that the order of the court on the bail of the defendants must first be complied with.
However, Oyedepo disagreed, insisting that the business of the day was for the trial to commence, noting that he had a witness ready in court.
The EFCC counsel also maintained that it was not the making of the EFCC that the defendants were still in custody, despite the fact that the EFCC did not oppose their applications for bail, noting that the EFCC investigators sacrificed their holiday period to verify compliance with the bail conditions.
Oyedepo further submitted that the defence counsel already had knowledge of the plea bargain terms and should either proceed with it or he was ready to open trial.
After listening to the parties, Justice Idris, in a bench ruling, ordered the EFCC to conclude the verification of the defendants’ bail conditions on or before Monday, July 11, 2016.
The judge said he had noted from the draft plea bargain that negotiation was already ongoing between the state and the defendants and that the defendants had shown a “clear, positive and strong intention” to settle with the government.