OPINION: #AtikuGate, SPV, APC’s mudslinging and other issues

Nigerian politicians have managed to hack the art of seeming indifference while being clothed in garbs of shamelessness — such is the mindboggling idiocy on display by the two established parties, the All Progressives Congress and the Peoples Democratic Party.

As if Nigerians aren’t suffering enough from the collective decisions made by both parties since the return to democratic rule since 1999, they decide to regale the citizenry with their lurid shenanigans in a game of oneupmanship.

Enter Festus Keyamo who suddenly decided that now is the right time to embark on a (fruitless) threat to sue Atiku Abubakar, the PDP presidential candidate over alleged ‘criminal breaches’.

Keyamo, the minister of state for labour and employment, had issued an ultimatum to the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Commission (ICP) and the Code of Conduct Bureau (CCB) to arrest Atiku.

The spokesperson of APC Presidential campaign council said Atiku should be arrested and prosecuted for offences against the Code of Conduct for Public Officers, Money Laundering, Criminal Breach of Trust and Criminal Misappropriation, and Conspiracy.

Keyamo informed the agencies of grave revelations by a whistle-blower, Michael Achimugu, who in a trending video in the past weeks provided oral evidence as to how Atiku as vice president between 1999 and 2007, allegedly colluded with his then boss, Olusegun Obasanjo, to fleece the country and steal public funds using what he termed “Special Purpose Vehicles” (SPVs).

Achimugu, who claimed to have worked closely with the former Vice President for years has been releasing a series of videos tagged “AtikuGate” to expose the alleged corrupt past of his former boss to educate Nigerians on the dangers of voting him as their next president.

According to Achimugu, Atiku collected N100 million from the convicted former Governor of Plateau State, Joshua Dariye, from the N1.16 billion ecological fund released to the state by the Ecological Fund Office that was being chaired by Atiku at the time.

Marine Float Limited, one of the phony companies (SPVs) said to have been used by Atiku to divert public funds during the Obasanjo administration between 1999 to 2007, operated illegally as it was not registered as a body corporate until 2017

“Those SPVs were companies Atiku admittedly registered upon assumption of office as Vice-President (with the approval of President Olusegun Obasanjo) using “trusted allies” as shareholders and Directors.

“The purpose was to divert government contracts to these companies as “consultants” and then paid monies into these companies and used those monies to fund the PDP and their private businesses and family activities.

“We can all vividly recall that during that tenure, both President Olusegun Obasanjo and Atiku Abubakar built the Bells University and American University respectively. Now, we know from where the funds came.

“We hereby make available Certified True Copies of the affidavit sworn to and released to the public by the whistleblower, Michael Achimugu, giving graphic details of all that transpired, including attached documents. Let us also play to you the voice recording he did of Atiku Abubakar. Note that he provided the time of the call, the phone number used and the emails immediately preceding the call,” the letter by Keyamo read.

The spokesperson for the APC presidential campaign stated that based on the evidence at hand, Atiku should be tried for violating Sections 5, 10, 13, and 17 of the Code of Conduct Bureau and Tribunal Act, as well as Sections 18(2) of The Money Laundering (Prevention and Prohibition Act), 2022, Section 311 of the Penal Code Law, and Section 96(1) of The Penal Code Act In Nigeria.

READ ALSO:OPINION…2023: Whose agenda?

Atiku, The Saint?

Never one to let issues slide, Atiku issued a riposte to the APC campaign spokesman, via his spokesman, Daniel Bwala (who defected from the APC, as his principal).

One would think everyone is smelling of perfumes with the attacks and counter-attacks, considering many of these politicians have switched parties more than a wealthy playboy switches partners.

Back to Bwala. The former APC chieftain went on the attack during an interview on AriseTV, defending Atiku, over the corruption allegations levelled by Keyamo.

Bwala said his principal would not glorify Achimugu and his alleged sponsors by responding to the allegation.

“He (Atiku) will not respond to a baseless distraction ahead of the election. We are making our case to the Nigerian people for election. And in which case, if the people believe in that blackmail, they will express that at the poll,” he said.

When asked if the voice in the leaked audio was that of his boss, Bwala said “I am not in a position at the moment to deny or confirm that it is the voice of Atiku Abubakar. But what I did and I’ve been doing is that I play the devil’s advocate.

“In the worst-case scenario, even if it’s the voice of Atiku Abubakar, the question I have asked is that in that communication is the law breached? In that communication, is there an infraction? And then you deal with the substance of the case.

“The only thing that they said in that press statement and wrote in their baseless letter is that in the communication (the leaked phone call), Atiku Abubakar said he floated an SPV (special purpose vehicles) and the SPVs were used in financing the political party’s activities. They tried to say, in all their social media, that SPV is a corrupt practice and so I said that is expression of ignorance.

Defending Atiku, Bwala said “SPV is a concept in corporate governance of developing or creating a separate entity from an organization or entity by the business venture, where the SPV manages risk.

“SPV is not unlawful (and) not illegal except if the SPV commits illegal acts. So, if Atiku Abubakar said there was an SPV created, where we have consultants (that) when they get a job, they make remittance of support to the party…unless if you can show that crime has been committed, there is no evidence to suggest that in this given scenario that crime has been committed.

“And Atiku said in that very communication (leaked phone call) that this case has been reported to the EFCC, they have thoroughly investigated it and there is no evidence of a wrongdoing.”

It is gut-wrenching that at a time many Nigerians are yearning to understand the manifestos of these politicians ahead of the polls, the candidates of the major parties decide to air their (dirty) laundry outside.

Even if the argument can be made that their ravenous lust for power coupled with the complicit elite means nobody will be held accountable for any wrongdoing, it is still expected for them to rein in their lackeys from issuing inflammatory utterances. This is necessary for the citizenry to usher in the elections in a peaceful atmosphere (that might be too much to ask, anyways).

PS: I’d wager Keyamo will not resign his position as the APC presidential campaign spokesman, even if his party stops him from prosecuting Atiku.

This was based on his statement.

“I’m going to court. And so, if they wish this away, it will not go away. I’m doing this under three capacities — first of all, I’m a member of the inner bar who has sworn to defend and uphold our laws. Secondly, I’m an ordinary concerned Nigerian who has the right to bring perpetrators of crime to book. Thirdly, before I was appointed minister, I was an active prosecutor for the EFCC for more than 15 years.

“So, I have the duty to help them to follow up on whistleblowers.

“I am proceeding to court. If Asiwaju says I’m diverting from his campaign, ‘don’t campaign for me again’, I’ll say please take your campaign because this is national interest. I have taken it personally.”

Will he do it? Your guess is as good as mine.

AUTHOR: Mayowa Oladeji

Articles published in our Graffiti section are strictly the opinion of the writers and do not represent the views of Ripples Nigeria or its editorial stand.

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