Sunday, October 5, 2014

The $9.3m ‘Arms-Purchase’ Scandal

The controversy surrounding the purported trafficking of $9.3 million dollars to South Africa in a Private Jet of a renowned Christian cleric by two Nigerians and an Israeli in September has added to the long list of knotty issues that have caused this crippled giant of a nation international embarrassment. The pertinent questions to ask are: Why did the traffickers refused to declare the huge sums to the South Africa customs and immigration officials at the port of entry if the business they are doing with the money is not illicit? Couldn’t such money presumably meant for purchase of arms and ammunition by Nigeria’s federal government had been made through electronic transfer? Why making cash purchases? Are there contract papers from the Ministry of Defence to the arms dealers to make the purchase on behalf of the Federal Government? Is it true that some members of the House of Representatives were bribed with $50,000 each to prevent the issue from being discussed by the House? All these and more are posers for the relevant government institutions to answer.

The justification being made by some people that paying cash to buy arms is a normal practice globally sounds hollow. If it’s normal to move such huge sums to purchase arms, why then did the traffickers not declare the money to the South African authorities?  The defence of the Christian Association of Nigeria’s President, Pastor Ayo Oritsejafor that his aircraft which was used to illegally transport the money was on lease to another company is a pointer to the fact that some blessings are burdens. The Private Jet was bought for the pastor a couple of years ago and he had to lease it out in order to raise money for its proper maintenance. If he could not maintain it, why retain it? The revered legal luminary, Femi Falana, SAN has come out to say that having been registered for evangelism, the aircraft now being used for commercial purpose is in breach of Companies and Allied Matters Act as churches are registered as Charity Organisation which is not-for-profit.

To a discerning mind, this $9.3m scandal has a sign of a botched money laundry exercise, otherwise the funds would have been officially declared at the point of entry in South Africa. That also raises another question about the complicity of Nigerian Customs, Immigration officials and Federal Aviation Authority of Nigerian personnel who allowed such huge cash to be checked in without proper documentation.

Jide is the Executive Director of OJA Development Consult, Abuja