Nigeria News
Reps split over seized $9.3m cash

The House of Representatives was sharply divided, yesterday, with All Progressives Congress, APC, members staging a walk-out over failure of the House to commence debate on the $9.3 million cash that was allegedly smuggled into South Africa by two Nigerians and an Israeli  for the purpose of purchasing arms for the Nigerian Intelligence Service.

The Senate on its part said it has commenced investigations into the arms deal which the Federal Government said was a legitimate transaction.

The House of Representatives motion which was stepped down last week Thursday, entitled: “The Need to Investigate the attempt to smuggle $9.3m cash into South Africa” and sponsored by Deputy Minority Leader, Suleiman Kawu Sumaila was rejected without a debate.

Fight at National Assembly Tuesday. Photo  by Gbemiga Olamikan

This development did not go down well with APC lawmakers who immediately staged a walk-out from the chamber and addressed the press to register their anger.

Trouble started when Kawu moved that his motion which was stepped down last week be taken under matters of national importance as he was unavoidably absent at last Thursday’s plenary.

The presiding officer, Emeka Ihedioha, who had earlier in his presentation referred to Chairman, House Committee on Rules, Albert Sam-Tsokwa on the issue, summoned him to guide the House.

Sam-Tsokwa told the House that the motion was stepped down last week because Kawu was absent, without explanation. “So, there was nothing we could do about that and I advised we step it down. He did not inform the Rules & Business (committee) that he was travelling with the Speaker and we were not given enough notice for the motion to be taken.”

Apparently believing that the motion may not be taken, yesterday, Kawu  rose up saying: “Mr Speaker, I hope you are giving me the assurance that my motion will be taken tomorrow if it is stepped down today.”

Ihedioha at this point declared that he had consulted with the House leadership and the motion would be taken immediately.

The motion

Kawu rose and reeled out the content of his motion. He said that “the report in the City Press Newspaper of South Africa on September 5, stated that two Nigerians and an Israeli citizen flew into Lanseria International Airport, northwest of Johannesburg, in a Challenger 600 Jet piloted by one Captain Tunde Ojongbede while carrying the sum of $9.3m cash.”

The motion sought a “thorough investigation of the matter” by the House committees on Defence and Aviation, to be reported back within two weeks.

Kawu explained that if legislative action was not taken on the “national embarrassment, the situation may further degenerate and overheat the polity.”

He said the development, if allowed to go un-investigated, the image of the country would be at stake before the international community.

After reading his motion, the presiding officer said: “This motion does not need to be debated, rather we will vote on it.”

Ihedioha put the motion to a voice vote and the nays nullified the  ays of the APC.

Apparently peeved by the pattern the voice voting followed, Kawu beckoned on his party members and they all left the chamber to register their anger.

Press briefing

Samson Osagie, APC, Edo at the briefing said: “We are here this afternoon to bare our minds on a very scandalous, very disgraceful and very appalling event that took place a week ago that borders on the image of our country, Nigeria. Let me state clearly that we are not just here as the members of the APC caucus of the House.

“We are also here as concerned Nigerians who hold the mandate of the Nigerian people to defend their interest, to ensure that corruption is reduced to the barest minimum if not totally eliminated, to ensure that our country’s integrity remains intact in the eyes of the international community.

“We are all aware that a week ago or so, the South African government impounded an aircraft purportedly belonging to a top religious leader in this country that was used to carry $9.3 million. They were said to be in mint (never been used).

“As if that was not enough, the Federal Government has come to own up that such money was carried for the purchase of arms and amunition to fight insurgency.

“The questions that we have for the Federal Government are as follows:


Questions for FG

lIs it faster or safer to do an international transaction of such magnitude by ferrying cash across the continent or simply through wire transfer that can go through in matter of seconds or matter of few hours.?

lIf  indeed, the matter involves security issues like the purchase of arms by a foreign government like Nigeria, why was the South African government not brought into the picture before hand and how could the South African government be sure that the arms were purchased legitimately by the Nigerian government and not by the insurgents when there were no officials of the NSA (National Security Adviser) office or the Director, Department of State Service, DSS, that accompanied such money?

lIf indeed the manufacturers of such equipment were expecting large sums of money by cash, why did they not make adequate arrangements with the authorities  in South Africa to declare the cash on arrival since it was the law in South Africa that you must declare any amount in excess of 2,500 dollars?

lWhy was the money belonging to the Federal Government and meant for the purchase of equipment for the Federal Government moved by a private jet when we have over five to six airplanes in the Presidential air fleet?

lWhy would the government that is at the peak of promoting cashless policy in our country be the chief breaker of that policy by moving such amount of cash if indeed, it was a legitimate transaction of the Federal Government?

lWhy were the officials of our embassy in South Africa not on hand to make the entry easier and smoother? Since the South African government has said the amount was above the limit of cash allowed into the country, why would a whole government like Nigeria not know the simple immigration law of a sister country and why would they have to take it out of the Oliver Tambo International Airport and land in a village where you have a local airport?

lWhy would the Federal Government seek to carry 9.3 million dollars? A country that is regarded as a giant of Africa smuggling an amount worth 1.5 billion Naira, in a country where citizens are wallowing in poverty for unexplained reasons?

lIs it just a wicked coincidence that the aircraft belonging to the President of CAN (Christian Association of Nigeria) was used to carry cash to South Africa? If contrary to the above posers, the transactions were contracted out to a private company in Nigeria, does it amount to the offence of money laundering under our laws for the Federal Government to have allowed that company to attempt to pay for the equipment by cash to the tune of that amount without passing through financial institutions?

“For us as a people and for us lawmakers, we find this unacceptable, unethical, illegitimate and in our view, it is an illegal transaction. The Nigerian government owes the Nigerian people an explanation as to what source that money came from.”

Walk-out normal —Sam-Tsokwa

When contacted, Chairman House committee on Rules and Business, Albert Sam-Tsokwa said: “What transpired today on the floor of the House was nothing new because in advanced legislatures of the world, lawmakers walk-out of the assembly.

“It will not start here and it will not end here but my advice to Kawu and other lawmakers is that next time, they should lobby their colleagues because the nays carried the day.

“We had advised Kawu to step down his motion for another legislative day but he refused and the majority had their way and, like you know, the minority will always have a say but the majority must always have their way.

“They would have studied the mood of the House before going ahead with the motion; they had the option of stepping down the motion till the time they would have more members on their side.

“Hon. Kawu made the House move a motion of urgent public importance and Mr Speaker directed that the motion should be taken the next legislative day.

“We put the motion on notice and even on the order paper to be taken on the next legislative day. But he came back with something different from what was initially given and it was late to change the order paper. Mr Speaker appealed to him to kindly move the motion in the next legislative day, but he refused”.

Senate begins probe

Meanwhile, the Senate said, yesterday, that  it had started investigation on the $9.3 million which was seized in South Africa.

Chairman, Senate Committee on Defence, Senator Thompson Sekibo disclosed this shortly after a closed-door meeting between the Senate committee and the Service Chiefs represented by the Chief of Defence Staff, CDS, Air Marshal Alex Badeh and Chief of Army Staff, COAS, Lt. Gen. Kenneth Minimah.

Speaking with newsmen after the meeting on the position of the Senate over the seized money, Senator Sekibo briefly said: “We are still investigating (the seized $9.3m); we have started the investigation, when we get through the investigation we will brief you. The money belongs to the Nigerian Government.”

He said there were several questions that were asked which the Senate was digging to find out details and facts of what happened, adding that the committee was satisfied that it was on top of the matter.

He also disclosed that the meeting with the CDS and the COAS went well as other issues of national importance were discussed, but he refused to mention some of the issues discussed.

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