The governor said he personally alerted the president.
President Goodluck Jonathan scrambled a swift rebuttal Friday to a shocking allegation by Jigawa State governor, Sule Lamido, who accused Mr. Jonathan of failing to act on credible information about a government minister receiving $250 million (N37.5 billion) bribe from an oil company.
In an interview on the Hausa service of Abuja based Vision (92.1) FM radio on Thursday, Mr. Lamido said he personally drew the attention of the president to the bribery involving an unnamed minister. Mr. Jonathan blatantly refused to act, the governor said.
“Do you know that recently a top minister received a $250 million (N39.7 billion) bribe for himself… he (the minister) is in the cabinet; he is in this current regime; he knows and I know, and I told the President,” Mr. Lamido alleged.
In a response Friday, Mr. Jonathan said the claim was “grossly irresponsible, false and mischievous”.
The president’s spokesperson, Reuben Abati, said in a statement that Mr. Lamido should name the minister and provide evidence to back his claim, failing which he should be prepared to apologize to Mr. Jonathan for “the unscrupulous, reckless and thoughtless peddling of arrant falsehood”.
“The presidency views the patently bogus allegation …as an unacceptable and callous attempt to unjustly impugn the integrity of President Jonathan and cast aspersions on the seriousness of his administration’s efforts to curb corruption,” he said.
The incriminating exchange about corruption, rare between a Nigerian president and a serving governor, appeared to be a radical shift from the usual conservative remarks often on display when official graft is discussed publicly.
While President Jonathan insists his administration is committed to addressing corruption, many Nigerians have pointed to relevant dismal corruption statistics to disprove that claim. They have accused the president of failing to act decisively on the simplest of graft cases confronting his administration.
The president is currently facing widespread criticism for failing to take a firm decision over a N255 million armoured car scandal involving the aviation minister, Stella Oduah.
But the comment also came as a fresh twist to the crisis rocking the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, in which Mr. Lamido, alongside six other governors, is challenging Mr. Jonathan’s choice for the leadership of the party; and have also asked the president to jettison his plan for a re-election in 2015.
Mr. Lamido raised the allegation against the president while seeking to dispel a question about the possibility of being of accused of corruption as punishment for his rebellious ways in the party.
He said he had gone past being intimidated.
“I’m past the fear of investigation since even my son was arrested on charges of stealing N5 million… everything that can be done for me to be scared has already been done,” he said.
Two of Mr. Lamido’s children were on Friday re-arrested by operatives of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) on allegations they helped their father steal about N10 billion of state funds.
It is not clear how the arrests are related to the party’s crisis though.