What actually went wrong with the $9.7m arms deal? Why was the cash flown to South Africa from Nigeria?Was the money, which South Africa impounded, actually meant for arms purchase?
These are some of the questions which will soon be answered.
President Muhammadu Buhari has promised to probe the Goodluck Jonathan administration’s deal.
He is to take up the issue with President Jacob Zuma.
The cash was seized by South African security men last September as it was being transferred into their country on a private jet by agents of the Federal Government.
Former President Jonathan’s government claimed that the money was mearnt to puchase arms from private companies in South Africa.
According to the government, Nigeria resorted to private puchase of arms to fight Boko Haram because the United States declined to sell arms to the country, in addition to persuading its allies not to allow sale of arms and ammunition to the country.
But eyebrows were raised about the manner the money was taken to South Africa.
“I will attempt to ask him (President Zuma) about our $9.7 million which was not correctly transferred,” Buhari told Nigerians in South Africa during a meeting with them in Johannesburg to round off his visit to the country for the African Union (AU) Summit.
He said: “I’m told there are 83 Nigerians in prisons, I don’t know what they have done but I spoke to the President of South Africa this afternoon. He wants to come to Nigeria. There are issues we will talk about, I will certainly talk to him, I hope our ambassador will send a comprehensive report about the court cases, about those who lost properties during the disturbances.”
The South African authorities froze $9.3 million transported in cash by two Nigerians and an Israeli for arms purchase. At the time, South Africa said the transaction violated its laws on movement of cash.
The two Nigerians and an Israeli were arrested at the Lanseria International Airport, Johannesburg, on September 5 in a private jet from Abuja.
The money, stashed in three suitcases, raised suspicion when the passengers’ luggage were unloaded and put through the scanners.
The National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) in South Africa said there was an invoice for helicopters and armaments intended to be used in Nigeria.
Two black plastic suitcases, filled with 90 blocks each containing US$100,000 in notes, with combination locks, were seized, as well as two pieces of hand luggage also containing US currency, according to City Press.
The Israeli national, Eyal Mesika, had the combination to open the locks.
Under South African laws, a person entering or leaving the country is expected to carry cash not exceeding US$2,300, or the equivalent in foreign currency notes.
The private jet involved belonged to the head of the Christian Association of Nigeria, (CAN) Pastor Ayo Ortisejafor.
Pastor Oritsejafor said the plane was on lease to a third party and he could not be blamed for its schedules.
President Buhari also promised to implement the cardinal policies of his administration.
He said: “Government is determined to secure the country, manage the economy, create employment and fight corruption. Some articulate writers have said if we do not kill corruption, corruption will kill Nigeria. This APC administration intends to kill corruption in Nigeria. We will do our best, I assure you.”
The All Progressives Congress (APC) government, Buhari said, is determined to secure the country, improve the economy and eliminate corruption.
According to him, the G7 leaders have expressed commitment to helping Nigeria tackle insecurity and develop its oil and gas sectors.
“We are getting the facts and logistic requirements together,” he said.
Buhari urged Nigerians resident in South Africa to be good ambassadors of the country, stressing that Nigerian and South African leaders will soon meet to discuss several issues bordering on their relationship.
“Those of you who have the opportunity to come here and represent us, make sure that you are representing Nigeria, you are all ambassadors of Nigeria. This means a lot of patience, restraint, self-respect and pride. You must have all these,” the President said.
According to him, those accusing him of locking them up have no case as himself was locked up for three and half years from his position as Head of State.
He said: “But I assure you that after being in the military for 25 years, and getting to the highest rank and becoming head of state and under unusual circumstances. As head of state, I went straight to detention for three and half years; so those who accused me of locking them up, I too have been locked up; so what?”
Buhari said the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) messed up Nigeria and that was why the people decided to vote for him.
He said: “They remember me more as chairman of PTF than as a former head of state, than a governor or a minister of petroleum. Inspite of the fact that it was during my time that I signed the contract for Warri Refinery, Kaduna Refinery, more than 3,500 lying pipes and more than 20 depot, we got the tankers off the road, we saved lives, we saved fuel, we save the road itself. But from 1999 till date, PDP has messed it up. That is why Nigerians decided to vote me.
“In spite the fact that they say money is working from primaries to my election is a proof that Nigerians know what they want once they make up their minds. You can give them the money, some refuse to take it, some took it and said it is our money and they do exactly what they wanted to do.
“So, why did I join partisan politics in spite of that? When I went home people knew that I have no money I thought they will leave me alone, but they didn’t. They were coming to me, asking me to do this and do that. And I found that the only way I could do it is by joining partisan politics. And maybe if I speak even if I’m not a member at any level, people will listen to me.
“The second that happened that finally convinced me to join partisan politics was what happened to Soviet Union. You know the Soviet Union was an empire in the 20th century that collapsed without a shot being fired. Everybody went home. There was confusion. Now there are 18 countries out of the old Soviet Union. They were more advanced than the western countries in science because they wanted to go to space specifically in 1957, and they had more nuclear war heads and delivering system than Warsaw.
“And they had organised their societies and they had much less crimes and they got jobs for people. When people had no jobs they got one for them. And that was when I decided and I believed that the best form of governance is multi-parties democracy with a big caveat: election must be free and fair. And that was why I was in trouble. I moved from APP to ANPP to CPC, eventually to APC.
Buhari wished he got to be president when he was younger in age.
He said: “How I wish I became head of state when I was a governor, just a few years as a young man. Now at 72, there is a limit to what I can do. But what brought me there I think mainly is because I love this country. I was in the war front for 30 months during our civil war, I lost a lot of loyal people to me, I lost a relative, a lot of Nigerians did too. We lost about two million Nigerian lives just to keep Nigeria one. So nobody should come now and tell us rubbish. We are going to remain one country God has given us another opportunity to reorganise this country. Those who work hard, the society will pay them back.”
Speaking earlier, the Consul-General of Nigeria in South Africa, Ambassador Uche Ajulu-Okeke, told President Buhari that 143 Nigerians were killed in South Africa between 2011 and 2014; 81 were in Johannesburg prison.
“Out of this 81 Nigerians, 21 have been convicted,” she said,
Ajulu-Okeke also disclosed that shops and other property worth millions of Rands belonging to Nigerians were destroyed during the recent xenophobic attacks.
The President of the Nigerian Union in South Africa, Mr. Ikechukwu Anyene, congratulated Buhari on his election and inauguration, saying “your victory is victory over poverty, hunger and signals hope for the common man”.
Ayene urged the president to facilitate compensation for Nigerians affected by the xenophobic attacks.