The Atiku, Obasanjo Scam

The Atiku, Obasanjo scam cover design

Richard Elesho 

Labour Minister of State, Festus Keyamo, is a man of strong convictions. The Senior Advocate of Nigeria, SAN, who doubles as Spokesperson to the All Progressives Congress APC, Presidential Campaign Council, APC PCC, did not hide his feelings when he declared his willingness to go to jail in pursuit of justice against not Presidential candidate of the People’s Democratic Party PDP, former Vice President Atiku Abubakar over an allegation of heists.

“Whether Atiku Abubakar wins or not (of course, I know he is not going to win), I’m prepared to face persecution under his government. I am prepared to go to jail, I am prepared to be charged even if he wins the election.” A combative Keyamo, declared on national television, threatening to go to court.

The nation did not have to wait long. Friday, 20 January, Keyamo, also Chief Publicist of Asiwaju Bola Tinubu and Kashim Shettima, APC Presidential Candidate and Vice respectively, took his grievances to Federal High Court, Abuja. He approached the court to test the legal validity of his pains against Atiku and to compel law enforcement agencies to effect his arrest, probe and prosecution.

With the general elections barely 30 days away, the race for the apex Nigerian office has gained more momentum, over time. Political actors and their collaborators have been junketing around the country in festive robes, vile rhetorics, hysterical lyrics and weird choreography, in the name of scavenging for votes.

The campaigns may have been skinned of the big issues. But as tears do not prevent vision, they have continued to beg for attention in the midst of the rubble. Indeed, beyond the theatrics, the two dominant parties, APC, and PDP have been on each other’s jugular asking probing questions.

Keyamo’s outbursts and mission to the court were over the damning revelation that the PDP candidate and his boss former President Olusegun Obasanjo, milked the country dry when they held sway in Also Villa, the nation’s seat of power. The duo were inaugurated at the dawn of democracy, in 1999 and remained in office till 2007.

Atiku’s former employee, Micheal Achimugu turned out to be his Squealer. The whistle-blower, in a manner reminiscent of a Nollywood script, released details of a recorded conversation between him and Atiku. In the viral voice note, the former number two explained how he and his boss created spurious accounts which they used to fleece the treasury of large sums of money.

Perhaps unable to hear the burden of guilt and fired by patriotic zeal, Achimugu exposed his boss. He dangled letters of appointment by Atiku, emails, documents, audio clips, affidavits and direct oral evidence as to how the PDP candidate during his sojourn in the Villa colluded with his then boss, Obasanjo, to rape the country and steal public funds using what he termed “Special Purpose Vehicles” (SPVs).

The APC PCC feasted on the evidence and tasked Atiku to apologise to Nigerians, quit the presidential race and submit himself to law enforcement agencies for prosecution. They made the demand at a Press Conference on Monday, 16 January.

Stealing by style

The Labour Minister who read a prepared text was flanked by other members of the PCC, namely Bayo Onanuga, Director of Media and Publicity, Dele Alake, Special Adviser, Media, Communications and Public Affairs, Femi Fani Kayode, Director, Special Media Projects, New Media, Alhaji Idris Mohammed, Director Strategic Communications.

The group explained how the scan was carried out. “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 pay monies to these companies 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 Bells University and American University respectively. Now, we know from where the funds came.”


Marine Float Account


Keyamo identified the controversial Marine Float Account for which former Governor of Plateau State, Joshua Dariye was prosecuted and jailed as one of the APC used to drain the country.

“The issue of the Marine Float Account is not new to Nigerians. In the voice note, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar can be heard boasting that the issue of that account was thoroughly investigated by EFCC, yet then he was smart enough to escape.

“However, we note that in 2006, at the height of his public quarrel with Obasanjo over the sharing of money, the same PDP officially asked Atiku Abubakar to refund N500 million taken from that account.

“In the circumstance, since the nation now knows that the Marine Float Account and other similar accounts were ‘SPV’ accounts, it follows that all payments made into that account were monies stolen from the public coffers. Therefore, we call on all security agencies to recover all monies withdrawn from that account by anyone for that matter.


Infractions against the law


On the strength of the revelations, the APC PCC identified four major areas the former Vice President had broken the law. Quoting relevant portions of the Code of Conduct Bureau and Tribunal Act, the group accused Atiku of compromising his office. Keyamo argued that it is an offence for a public officer to “put himself in a position where his interest conflicts with his duties and responsibilities.”

Keyamo also said what Atiku did was tantamount to money laundering, criminal breach of trust and conspiracy.

The group called on law enforcement agencies to launch detailed investigations into the issues, emphasizing that the PDP candidate has long been out of the office and no longer enjoys immunity.

“We understand that the law enforcement agencies may be reluctant to act simply because of the perception of persecution of a Presidential candidate that this may evoke…It bears restating that a sane and dispassionate system never allowed such side talks to dissuade or distract them from initiating a process of investigation. It is the minimum expected in a constitutional democracy. That is what we call on the authorities to do in the case of Alhaji Atiku Abubakar.


Demand for an apology and step down from the presidential race


The group made some demands from the PDP candidate including an apology to Nigerians and immediate withdrawal from the race.

“In the light of these very grave revelations, we call on Atiku Abubakar to IMMEDIATELY tender an unreserved apology to the Nigerian people and step down from the Presidential race forthwith, whilst handing himself over to the law enforcement agencies.

“What is now clear to the Nigerian people is that between 1999 and 2007:

(a) President Obasanjo and Atiku ran a criminal enterprise and an empire of fraud in Abuja at the same time Asiwaju Bola Tinubu was toiling very hard, dutifully and meticulously laying the foundation to rebuild Lagos State.

(b) That following these revelations, it becomes clear that Atiku Abubakar has ABSOLUTELY NOTHING TO CAMPAIGN ON AGAIN AS THE PERIOD OF 1999 – 2007 that he always relies on can now be described by Nigerians as the “SPV years” when they ran Nigeria aground.

(c) That whilst President Obasanjo and Atiku deprived the good people of Lagos State of their Local Government monthly allocations even after the Supreme Court ordered the release of the funds, they were busy stealing the nation’s resources by stealth in Abuja.

(d) That the real, dark reason for the seemingly irreconcilable quarrel between President Obasanjo and Atiku Abubakar is disagreement over monies they both stole in the ‘SPV’ accounts at that time.”

Keyamo, as a concerned citizen has dispatched petitions to the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, Independent Corrupt Practices and related Offences Commission, ICPC, and Code of Conducts Bureau urging the agencies to investigate the matter. He also vowed to make good his threat of going to court on the issue.


Atiku’s defence and counterattack


The PDP candidate has not taken the allegations lying low. Like someone under torture, he has been reactive. He denied the claims and labelled Achimugu a blackmailer. Rather than speak to the issues, his media handlers also elected to launch a counterattack on the APC Presidential candidate, who they accused of scheming the allegations.

Atiku revisited old allegations of forgery, shady identity and drug trafficking against his rival. The PDP claimed Tinubu had once forfeited 460,000 Dollars, being proceeds from a drug deal and should honourably step aside from the Presidential race. The party noted that their candidate had been probed several times and was not afraid of being investigated.

On Wednesday 18 January, the PDP Campaign Council threatened to furnish Nigerians with a compendium of alleged corrupt practices involving Tinubu, as well as the list of Special Purpose Vehicles (SPVs) used by him to loot public funds in key government agencies in Lagos State.

Kola Ologbondiyan, one of Atiku’s Spokespersons demanded an unreserved apology from Tinubu over the allegation of corruption, warning that “those who dig pits for the innocent always fall into them.”

“This is the case in the vexatious plots by Asiwaju Tinubu to divert attention from his litany of atrocities by seeking to impugn the impeccable character of our candidate, Atiku Abubakar, with the unfounded controversy of corruption.

“Tinubu has not only failed in this mission to tarnish the clean image of Atiku Abubakar but in the process also exposed himself as the real Mr SPV.

“Nigerians are now in the know of how tranches of $35,000, $71,000, $100,000, $30,000, $200,000, $300,000, $30,000, $70,000, $80,000, $70,000 and $30,000 were alleged to have been taken by Tinubu from different branches of a first generation bank between February 4 to February 5, 2015,” he added.

But the APC PCC would not let go in a hurry. Indeed, it’s been front and back between the two campaign councils. Bayo Onanuga, Director of the APC PCC, described Atiku’s response as puerile and beating about the bush in an attempt to sweep the matter under the carpet.

“The issues the Nigerian people want the PDP and his candidate to address are simple. They are: Was the whistleblower, Michael Achimugu, who swore to an oath,  employed by Atiku?

“Did Atiku make a scandalous confession in a telephone conversation on how he and his former boss, President Olusegun Obasanjo set up SPVs, such as Marine Float, to steal public money? Was the taped voice, not Atiku’s?”

Onanuga said Atiku’s counterattack was like a weak attempt by the pot to paint the kettle black. “This resort to counter-mudslinging is not only an admission of criminal guilt, but it is also an irresponsible way to cover up the concrete evidence of conspiracy and corruption.

“How can PDP pretend that Atiku is innocent of the allegations when even General Olusegun Obasanjo, his boss and collaborator had documented Atiku’s legendary corruption in his book and had sworn never to support Atiku’s presidential ambition to avoid the wrath of God?

“If the PDP has any modicum of respect for Nigerians, if it has any concern for the Nigerian youths and a future without corruption, it should come clean on these allegations and stop dancing around the real issues.


CNPP steps in


As the call and countercall for withdrawal from the race continue, the Conference of Nigeria Political Parties, CNPP, advised the two front-runners to quit. In a statement signed by its Secretary General, Chief Willy Ezugwu, the group stated:

“While we agree with the APC Presidential Campaign Council that the security agencies should immediately arrest the presidential candidate of the PDP, Atiku Abubakar for prosecution over his alleged Special Purpose Vehicles (SPV) coded corruption strategy as against “open corruption”, we also call for the presidential candidate of the APC, Bola Ahmed Tinubu, to subject himself to security screening over alleged illicit business ventures and corruption allegation bordering on the alleged use of “SPV” like the Alpha Beta for money laundering.”

Continuing, “The APC had given 72 hours ultimatum to the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), the Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Commission (ICPC) and the Code of Conduct Bureau (CCB) to arrest, interrogate and prosecute Atiku for what the party referred to as offences against Code of Conduct for Public Officers, Offence of Money Laundering; Offence of Criminal Breach of Trust and Criminal Misappropriation; and Offence of Conspiracy.

“On its part, the PDP has described the formation of a uniformed squad by the APC code-named “Jagaban Army” as a treasonable act and called for the arrest and questioning of Tinubu who has also been figured in a Chicago State narcotics syndicate saga in the United States.

“For the CNPP, both the APC and the PDP are right in their calls and counter calls for their respective presidential candidates to step aside for thorough investigation as the allegations made by a whistleblower, Mr Michael Achimugu against Atiku Abubakar and the revelations equally made against Tinubu by award-winning journalist and researcher, David Hundeyin, bordering on international crime, specifically, trafficking in narcotics and taking proceeds of narcotics are all germane.”

How and when the dust will settle, is a matter of time.

Keyamo’s Petition against EFCC, ICP

On Friday, 20 January, Festus Keyamo filed a petition asking the court in Abuja to compel the EFCC, ICPC to arrest and prosecute Atiku.

The court papers: