The senate president, Bukola Saraki, has denied being involved in the N60bn arms deal involving the immediate past National Security Adviser, Sambo Dasuki.
Mr. Saraki, in a statement by his special adviser (media and publicity), Yusuph Olaniyonu, said that contrary to a report published by news website, SaharaReporters, he never had anything to do with purchase of security equipment because in his entire political career he never served in any committee or body which has any link with defence or national security.
“As a member of the Seventh Senate, Dr. Saraki was not a member of any of the committees which have oversight function on the Ministry of Defence or the intelligence and national security apparatus. If he was tagged the leader of the opposition to the Jonathan administration, how then will he be privy to arms purchases and have the influence to blackmail any government agency or institution over the release of funds,” the statement said.
Mr. Saraki said the report was a plot by SaharaReporters to tarnish his reputation, as the medium was pursuing “the singular objective of removing him from the office of the Senate President”.
The Saharareporters’ report accused Mr. Saraki of blackmailing the Central Bank of Nigeria to pay him and other senators N250 million as a way of covering up the arbitrary withdrawal by the NSA from the security fund approved by former President Goodluck Jonathan.
“First, there is no logic in SaharaReporters’ claim as Dr. Saraki who was persecuted by the last administration could not have had the influence and good standing to walk up to the Central Bank to demand for any money having exposed many atrocities of the past administration. Again, on what ground would the Senate President blackmail anyone for 250 Million naira? It must be emphasized here that Dr. Saraki will never engage in any sharp practice or issue which will warrant him to blackmail any individual or government institution.
“Therefore for record purposes, Dr. Saraki did not collect any money from any official of the CBN in respect of any arms deal. The Senate President also challenge SaharaReporters or any official of the apex bank, Senator, serving or past, who witnessed or participated in any sharing of the alleged money purported to have been received by him, to come out with evidence.
“It should be recalled that SaharaReporters believe it can continue to disparage and defame people claiming that it is operating outside the country. The medium cannot operate above the law.
“The game being played by SaharaReporters and its sponsors is clear. As they have done in previous cases involving the on-going trial of the Senate President at the Code of Conduct Tribunal, they are targeting the Appeal at the Supreme Court coming up on Thursday, December 3rd 2015. They want to prejudice the Supreme Court as they have done when they blackmailed a judge of the Federal High Court to withdraw from the case and also published false reports, which compelled the Court of Appeal to postpone its judgment at the last minute.
“Whatever the motive of SaharaReporters, it is high time we employed the instrument of the law to stop this act of impunity aimed at publishing false reports believing the victims will not go to court or be frustrated by its dubious claims that they are domiciled outside Nigeria.
“We urge all Nigerians and other well-meaning individuals across the globe to ignore this absolutely false claim by SaharaReporters. Like we earlier stated, this false claim shall not go unchallenged. We shall meet in court.
“We have allowed SaharaReporters enough latitude to indulge in their unscrupulous and mischievous method of journalism. However, enough is enough. We have no option than to commence legal action against Sahara Reporters in all relevant jurisdictions, particularly on the issue of fake passport, false claim of bribery and the recent one on blackmail, all aimed at tarnishing the image of the Senate President,” the statement said.
But SaharaReporters said Tuesday it stood by its report and assured Mr. Saraki it will defend its position in any court within and outside Nigeria.
“As Nigeria’s number three man, there is no need for him to do legal tourism by going to courts outside the country. He should believe in the system and go to any court in Nigeria,” the publisher of SaharaReporters, Omoyele Sowore, told PREMIUM TIMES.
“We are ready to meet him in any court in Nigeria.If he goes to court to challenge us outside of Nigeria, he would be using the money he has taken from the Nigerian people to pay expensive lawyers outside the shores of Nigeria whereas all the evidences of his corruption are based here in Nigeria.”
Mr. Sowore said the senate under Mr. Saraki failed to raise any concern about the extra-budgetary withdrawals, even when it knew about it, because its leaders were involved in the fraud.