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Nigerian leader denies corruption, death squads

December 23, 2013

LAGOS, Nigeria (AP) — Nigeria’s President Goodluck Jonathan is challenging a prominent critic to prove allegations of corruption and that he is training a death squad to kill enemies.

President Goodluck Jonathan, in a letter posted on his special adviser’s website Monday, did not address charges that he is shielding a party financier indicted for drug trafficking in the United States and that drug barons are influencing politicians.

Jonathan said he has asked security agencies and the government-funded National Commission for Human Rights to investigate Obasanjo’s suggestion that he is training a killer squad to assassinate some of the more than 1,000 alleged enemies on a hit list.

The letter responds to criminal and treasonous allegations made by his former mentor and ex-President Olusegun Obasanjo. It is the most comprehensive accounting of his government ever provided by Jonathan, who has governed since the end of 2009, yet still sidesteps difficult questions.

Nigeria’s leader barely touched on the issue of the indicted Buruji Kashamu, saying the man had already responded himself.

Obasanjo said the government’s failure to extradite Kashamu “is only confirming the persistent reports of complicity and condonation (condoning) of the crime for political benefit.”

He warned that “Sooner (rather) than later, drug barons ... will buy candidates, parties and eventually buy power or be in power themselves.”

Kashamu, who insists he is “a clean businessman,” said he had worked closely with Obasanjo when he was president and “spent over 3 billion naira” (about $20 million) to ensure the ruling party won the vote in Obasanjo’s Ogun state.

“When he was using me, he did not know me as a drug dealer,” Kashamu told the newspaper Vanguard. “When Obasanjo was in government, almost 60 percent, including some former governors and former senators that surrounded Obasanjo, were all drug dealers.”

Jonathan suggests that Obasanjo is guilty of some of the same crimes he accuses Jonathan of. Jonathan says he has never been associated with political violence though assassinations occurred under his predecessors, implying also under Obasanjo’s watch.

He refers to Obasanjo’s most infamous moment — the deployment of troops to the town of Odi in the turbulent Niger Delta in 1999 who razed it to the ground and massacred hundreds in revenge for the killing of security forces. A federal court this February ordered the government to pay survivors 37.6 billion naira ($235 million) in compensation, but the government has ignored that, as it does many court orders.

Jonathan remained silent on Obasanjo’s charge that he plans to run for re-election, which the former leader warned would violate Jonathan’s promise to honor an unwritten party rule to rotate power between a Christian southerner, like Jonathan and Obasanjo, and a Muslim northerner.

To Obasanjo’s accusations of weak governance in the face of Nigeria’s myriad conflicts, Jonathan responds that they all existed while Obasanjo was president and that he never managed to tame the plague of kidnappings, armed robbery, oil theft and Islamic militants.

On specific corruption cases, Jonathan invites Obasanjo to clarify to the nation some spectacular cases that occurred under his watch. Under his own administration, Jonathan says, several highly placed people and the sons of some ruling party leaders are facing trial for a $6 billion fuel subsidy scam and now face trial.

Turning to the latest massive corruption in Nigeria, Jonathan called “a spurious allegation” the charge from respected Central Bank Gov. Lamido Sanusi that nearly $50 billion in oil receipts is missing from the treasury. A flurry of meetings last week led to Sanusi telling legislators the missing amount was actually $12 billion, and the finance minister putting it at $10.8 billion.

Therefore, Jonathan concludes, Obasanjo should apologize for “impugning the integrity of my administration.”

He demanded that Obasanjo provide facts about the “high corruption which you say stinks all around my administration.”

To criticism that Nigeria’s international friends are concerned about the state of the country and economy, Jonathan says Nigeria has won 18 percent of all foreign investments in Africa, attracting $25.7 billion in just three years. Nigeria is the United States’ biggest trading partner in sub-Saharan Africa and the U.S. is the largest foreign investor in the country, according to the U.S. State Department.

“Nigeria is bleeding and the hemorrhage must be stopped,” said Obasanjo’s letter.

The World Bank recently noted that despite robust economic growth and investment, more than 100 million of the country’s more than 160 million people in Africa’s most populous nation remain destitute — equaling 8.3 percent of all destitute people in the world.

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