By Najeeb Ibrahim Kafur
The recent propaganda and mudslinging peddled by some newspapers and civil society organisations and obviously orchestrated by some mischief makers against the Kebbi state governor, Abubakar Atiku Bagudu, is not only unfortunate but also reprehensible. Although the allegations had been refuted by both the governor and the Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice Abubakar Malami, the report that the federal government plans to hand over about $100 million, United States authorities say was stolen by a former Head of State, Gen. Sani Abacha, to Bagudu, was indeed a premeditated mudslinging intended to smear the hard earned reputation of the amiable and industrious Kebbi state governor.
For the benefit of hindsight, an online portal, Premium Times, on Friday, reported that the Nigerian government is committed to a deal that would help Bagudu keep over $100 million from funds stolen by Abacha. The paper said court documents reported by Bloomberg are likely to put cooperation with the United States over Abacha loot recovery at risk. The Bloomberg report noted that the commitment to transfer the funds to Bagudu appeared to undermine President Muhammadu Buhari’s pledge to check corruption in the country.
It quoted the US Department of Justice as saying that Bagudu was involved in corruption with Abacha, and contended that the Nigerian government was hindering US efforts to recover allegedly laundered money it says was traced to Bagudu. It added that the Buhari administration says a 17-year-old agreement entitles Bagudu to the funds and prevents Nigeria from assisting the US, according to recent filings from the District Court of Columbia in Washington.
The disagreement, according to Bloomberg, may hamper future cooperation between Nigeria and the US to recover money moved abroad by Abacha.
However, in a refutal of the unfounded allegations, Governor Bagudu said that he believed the report was aimed at using the media to sensationalise the case while the US authorities were using it as a ploy to confiscate recovery of the money by the Nigerian government, adding that the money was frozen in the UK and not the US. He said that his name was only joined as an associate of the Abacha government and though he signed an agreement with the federal government under former President Olusegun Obasanjo in 2003, up to 2013 none of his assets was frozen in Nigeria, and therefore he did not admit criminal liability.
According to a copy of the agreement made available to the press, it says if at any stage Bagudu returned to Nigeria he would not be arrested and in case of any mistaken arrest unconditional bail would be granted him in respect of the Abuja proceedings, the amended Abuja proceedings, the delegated proceedings or any criminal proceedings existing or future relating to the resolved matters as in the principal agreement. The agreement was accompanied by a presidential statement in respect of Global Settlements between Bagudu and his affiliates and the Federal Republic of Nigeria signed by former President Obasanjo on August 18, 2003.
The letter listed Bagudu’s affiliates as David Liewellyn Jones, Smith and Tyres Limited, Robinson International, and AB’s wife, children, brothers and sisters. How, then can any rationale mind interpret this matter to mean that the federal government would transfer the said money to Bagudu? This is absolute hogwash which only a benign mind could plot.
On his part, the minister of justice has asked the Nigerian public to disregard the story that the federal government is to pay Kebbi state governor, Atiku Bagudu, $100 million from the late Sani Abacha loot, describing the report as “unfounded and baseless.”
In a statement over the weekend, Special Assistant on Media to the Minister, Umar Gwamdu, said the report is a fiction and figment of the imagination of the writer. “The story regarding paying a governor certain amount of the repatriated Abacha loot is unfounded and baseless. It is only a fiction and figment of the imagination of mischief makers who are bent on destroying the good efforts of the federal government. The report should be disregarded by any sensible and well-meaning persons,” the statement said.
In a similar vein, Northern Nigerian Youth Council (NNYC) has berated some media and civil society groups for criticising the Kebbi state governor and circulating the falsehood that he stands to benefit a whopping sum from a cache of recovered Abacha loot.
In a statement, the group’s Chairman, Comrade Yusuf Suleiman, said that some newspapers and civil society groups are on a mudslinging mission to soil the good standing of Gov Bagudu, allegedly over a cache of recovered Abacha loot.
“This is why we have found it necessary to issue this statement and warn this online medium as well as other media houses that are on this campaign of infamy to desist from spreading fake, sensational and baseless lies capable of heating the polity and causing disaffection among Nigerians.
“As a group, we will not allow the peddling of falsehood against the person of Gov Bagudu, who has been a God sent to the people of Kebbi! We, therefore, urge these media houses to vet their stories properly before going to press. The media is supposed to be trusted, but when falsehood such as this is allowed free passage through a gate supposedly guarded by balance, responsibility, objectivity and facts, it leaves the rest of us with serious doubts because trust is to be earned.”
It is evident from the governor’s clarification and rebuttal as well as the denial by the minister of justice coupled with the fact that the Northern Nigerian Youth Council is solidly behind the governor by its warning to disgruntled elements against attempts to distract the Kebbi state governor from his giant strides at developing the state, that the report is false in its entirety and a mere hatchet job.
It is unfortunate that the pull him down syndrome which has pervaded Nigerian politics is being taken to a ridiculous extent in the attempt to malign and bring to public odium and disrepute a state governor who is doing so much to develop Kebbi state and lift the good people of the state out of poverty.
But the good news is that Governor Bagudu is resolute, focused and determined to continue to do the good works that have endeared him so dearly to the people of the state, earning him a second term in office. Consequently, masterminds and political jobbers of the devious campaign of calumny against the governor had better looked for something more useful to do, as no amount of blackmail in this regard will succeed.
Najeeb writes from Kaduna