by Dare Lawal
After staging a walkout during Tuesday’s sitting of the federal house of representatives, APC lawmakers, led by the minority whip, Samson Osagie (Edo/APC), addressed newsmen over the $9.3m cash for arms deal.
The APC lawmakers were unhappy that their quest to debate the motion on the issue was not allowed by the deputy speaker, Emeka Ihedioha, who presided. Ihedioha put the matter to voice vote immediately after the lead debate by Hon. Kawu Sumaila, instead of allowing other contributions as the house rules stipulate. This led to the walkout by the opposition lawmakers.
At their press conference afterwards, they demanded an explanation from the executive arm of government on the arms deal.
The address by the APC lawmakers and posers for the Executive was as follows:
“We are here this afternoon to bare our minds on a very scandalous, very disgraceful and very appalling event that took place a week ago that borders on the image of our country, Nigeria. Let me state clearly that we are not just here as the members of the APC caucus of the House. We are also here as concerned Nigerians who hold the mandate of the Nigerian people to defend their interest, to ensure that corruption is reduced to the barest minimum if not totally eliminated, to ensure that our country’s integrity remains intact in the eyes of the international community. We are all aware that a week ago or so, the South African government impounded an aircraft purportedly belonging to a top religious leader in this country that was used to carry $9.3million. They were said to be in mints and have never been used.
“As if that was not enough, the federal government has come up to own up that it was aware that such money was carried and that it was meant for the purchase of arms and ammunition for the purpose of fighting insurgency. The questions that we have for the federal government are as follows: Is it faster or safer to do an international transaction of such magnitude by ferrying cash across the continent or simply wire transfer that can go through in matter of seconds or matter of few hours? If indeed, the matter involves security issues like the purchase of arms by foreign government like Nigeria, why was the South African government not brought into the picture before hand and how could South African government be sure that the arms were purchased legitimately by the Nigerian government and not by the insurgents when there were no officials of the NSA office or the Director of state security department that accompany such money?
“If indeed the manufacturers of such equipment were expecting large sums of money by cash, why did they not make adequate arrangement with the authorities in South Africa to declare the cash on arrival since it was the law in South Africa that you must declare any amount in excess of 2500 dollars? Why was the money belonging to the federal government and meant for the purchase of equipment for the federal government moved by a private jet when we have over five to six airplanes in the presidential air fleet? Why was the money not accompanied by the officials of NSA and DSS?
“Why would the government that is at the peak of promoting cashless policy in our country be the chief breaker of that policy by moving such amount of cash, if indeed, it was a legitimate transaction of federal government? Why were the officials of our embassy in South Africa not on hand to make the entry easier and smoother? Since the South African government has said the amount is above the limit of cash allowed into the country, why would a whole government like Nigeria not know the simple immigration law of a sister country and why would they have to take it out of the Oliver Tambo international airport and went to land in a village where you have a local airport? Why would government of Nigeria seek to smuggle 9.3 million dollars? A country that is regarded as a giant of Africa smuggling amount worth 1.5 billion Naira, in a country where citizens are wallowing in poverty for unexplained reasons? Is it just a wicked coincidence that the aircraft belonging to a personal friend and an unapologetic ally of the president in the person of the chairman of the CAN was used to smuggle the cash?
“If contrary to the above posers, the transactions were contracted out to a private company in Nigeria, does it amount to the offense of money laundering under our laws for the federal government to have allowed that company to attempt to pay for the equipment by cash to the tune of that amount without passing through financial institutions?”
The APC lawmakers concluded: “For us as a people and for us lawmakers, we find this unacceptable, unethical, illegitimate and in our view, it is an illegal transaction. Nigerian government owes the Nigerian people an explanation as to what that source of money comes from and the purpose for which it was made.
“There is no denying the fact that given the circumstances of this transaction, there were ill motives and it cannot be unassociated (sic) with money laundering or an attempt to steal the Nigerian money belonging to the people of Nigeria up to the tune of 1.5 billion Naira, 9.3 million US dollars.
“We call on the federal government, we call on this government to tell Nigerians why it has to do what it has done and there is no amount of official intimidation, official harassment of good people of this country and those who intend to speak on this matter that should cover this transaction that is clad in illegality and illegitimacy.”