Former President Goodluck Jonathan has provided some new insights into the lingering arms procurement fund saga involving the erstwhile National Security Adviser (NSA), Colonel Sambo Dasuki.
Dr Jonathan observed that it was not possible for Dasuki to have stolen $2.2 billion as claimed by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), given the fact that the government purchased a lot of weaponry and military equipment with the fund.
The former president stressed that his administration fought corruption without making noise about it – unlike the current “exaggerated” methods being adopted for the anti-graft war.+
Jonathan bared his mind on Monday in Britain at the Oxford Union of the University of Oxford. He spoke on the theme: “Promoting Youth Entrepreneurship”.
Without any equivocation, Jonathan affirmed that it was “not just possible” for Dasuki to steal $2.2 billion after his administration procured several equipment for the country’s armed forces.
His words: “They said the National Security Adviser stole $2.2 billion. I don’t believe somebody can just steal $2.2 billion. We bought warships, we bought aircraft, we bought lots of weapons for the army and so on and so forth and you are still saying $2.2 billion. So, where did we get the money to buy all those things?”
Jonathan made this clarification while responding to a question about the alleged missing arms procurement fund tagged ‘Dasukigate’ by the Nigerian press. Although he candidly conceded that corruption was an issue during his tenure, he said some of the allegations have been “exaggerated”.
According to him, “Yes, there were some issues; yes, there are still corruption issues; but some of it were blown – I’d say exaggerated, and they give a very bad impression about our nation. You cannot say the National Security Adviser stole $2.2 billion. It is not just possible.”
Jonathan pointed out, however, that some of the corruption cases are still in court and that he would rather allow the legal processes to reveal the facts of the matter – since he doesn’t want to appear as challenging the incumbent government.
His words: “One thing about the issue of corruption is that these matters are in court; let’s allow some of these processes to end. Lately some judges’ (homes) were also invaded. There are so many things involved and we have to follow up these matters to conclusion before we know the facts.
“I don’t want to be seen as a former president challenging what the sitting government is doing so I have decided to keep quiet for the courts to look into them.
“We reformed the (anti-corruption) institutions and introduced various mechanisms to stop the corruption problems in our country without publicity.”
He explained that governments have been overthrown in the past because they were accused of being corrupt only for the new administration itself to be pushed out of power by another military group singing the anti-corruption mantra.
“You will see that it has become a major topic whenever there is a change of government,” he said.
Jonathan further stated that corruption remains a global problem but that the perception of corruption is greater in Nigeria due to the Nigerian press’ obsession with reporting on corruption.
According to him, “I am not saying there is no corruption in Nigeria, there is corruption. If you look at corruption there is almost no country that is free; the degree varies, the perception varies. Transparency International talks about the way corruption is being perceived in different economies. Why do we talk about the way corruption is being perceived?
It depends on the issues raised in the media every day.”
Dasuki, who has been in detention since December 1, 2015, was arrested by the security agency in a raid on the orders of President Muhammadu Buhari for alleged diversion of $2.2 billion meant to purchase equipment for the Nigerian armed forces in its battle against the Boko Haram.
It could be recalled that a Federal Capital Territory High Court, Abuja, last Friday granted the application of the EFCC to consolidate the two separate cases against the former army Colonel. A statement by the anti-graft commission said Dasuki will be re-arraigned on November 16.
In a related development, using his Twitter handle, the former president paid glowing tributes to Nigerian youths and said “any Nation that does not spend its wealth and resources to develop the capacity of its youth will be forced to use them to fight insecurity.
“As a leader, you can decide through your policies to educate the youths, or face the consequences of failing to do so,” he said.
He also said his administration put in place some youth related policies, which grew the Nigerian economy.
According to him, “Despite incredible challenges, Nigerian youths are achieving great things and placing Nigeria positively in the world map. They inspire us.”
He also revealed that his administration increased the allowances due to Youth Corps members by more than 100% in 2011, adding that the PDP administration he led “identified Nollywood as a sector that can employ many young people and provided a grant of $200 million to boost the industry.”
He further said that, “As a result, Nollywood became a major contributor to our GDP and in 2014, the industry contributed 1.4% to our GDP.
“We may not have been perfect, but we did our best, and our best yielded an era of unprecedented economic growth for Nigeria. A growth that proved the truism that a nation’s wealth is not underneath the ground but between the ears of her people.
“Under my watch, Nigeria was projected by CNN Money to be the third fastest growing economy in the world for the year 2015.
“While serving as president of Nigeria, I worked for the next generation and not for the next elections. I have no regrets for what I did.”
Jonathan also called on contemporary African leaders to see youth entrepreneurship as a collective project transcending national boundaries.