Nigeria News
S’Africa: We Have Not Received Any Summons over Cash-for-Arms Deal
Ambassador Lulu Mgnuni

Ambassador Lulu Mgnuni

The South African High Commissioner to Nigeria, Ambassador Lulu Mgnuni, has refuted reports that he has been summoned by the Nigerian Ministry of Foreign Affairs over the botched arms deals which led to the seizure of a total of $15 million belonging to the Nigerian government by South African authorities.
South Africa, in two separate incidents barely three weeks apart, seized $9.3 million flown into the country via a private jet, and again seized $5.7 million in deals that the Nigerian government has insisted are legitimate, thus creating a situation which diplomatic observers say is capable of damaging bi-lateral relations between the two nations if not handled properly.
However, Mgnuni, in a telephone conversation with THISDAY yesterday, said he was yet to receive any such summons from the Nigerian Foreign Affairs Ministry or from any department of the Nigerian government.
The envoy had earlier told local media that the ongoing issues between the two governments would be settled amicably and would not degenerate into a diplomatic row, as is being feared.
Analysing the situation, a Nigerian diplomat who spoke anonymously, said South Africa was not handling the matter diplomatically as should be done between nations with a cordial relationship, adding that South Africa’s attitude is capable of jeopardizing the smooth ties between the two nations.
The diplomat added that South African authorities, on apprehending the jet bearing the cash, ought to have quietly alerted its Nigerian counterpart, without allowing it to leak to the press and handled the matter diplomatically.
“They have unwittingly harmed cherished relations,” he said in an informal conversation with THISDAY, but quickly added that Nigeria itself did not follow the appropriate channels to conduct the arms transaction.
“In fairness also, we ought to have approached them government-to-government quietly. They would in turn facilitate approach to whoever is supposed to sell the arms to us. The money would be transferred and that would be it,” he explained.
At the heart of rising tensions between Nigeria and South Africa is a cordial relationship which has always been tetchy, the diplomat added, recalling the 2012 yellow fever card saga when Nigeria in a retaliatory move, deported almost 200 South Africans in just a few days.
“Our relationship has always been like that of cat and mouse. Also, xenophobia targeted towards Nigerians is still rampant in South Africa. But as diplomats, we cannot allow these things to spill over,” he explained.
Also, the Senior Special Assistant on Public Affairs to the President, Dr. Doyin Okupe, has faulted the South African government for exposing the botched arms deals, maintaining that the deal should have been kept as a secret between both countries.
Speaking on African Independent Television (AIT) yesterday, Okupe said such deals have become the norm across the world and that the high level of insecurity in the country forced Nigeria to reach the decision to procure arms through such means.
He wondered why South Africa, which must have gone through a similar process in the past, resolved to embarrass the country. He also maintained that there was nothing illegal about the transaction.
“If we are not able to get arms through the regular means and we have a job to do for Nigeria, then we have got to use other ways and it means that will ensure that we don’t fail on this point,” he said.
“A company was selected to do a job for the Federal Government of Nigeria and because of extant laws within South Africa, they were not able to deliver their job and they wanted a refund, then the South African government just jumped issues and said they smelt a rat.
“When this thing broke out, government came out to the open to say the money belongs to Nigeria and mentioned what the money was meant for.
“There is nothing shady about this deal. Governments move money all over the world.  The Office of the National Security Adviser has been so circumspect about this and has given adequate information as and when required.
“The truth is that governments all over the world do things that are below the line, especially when it has to do with security.
“I’m surprised that Nigerians want to discuss security issues openly, especially when we are prosecuting an ongoing war. These things are not meant to be,” he added.
Okupe argued that security issues ought not to be discussed in the public domain and that disagreement between both countries on certain matters could have prompted the South African government to blow the lid open. However, he said President Goodluck Jonathan was in touch with his South African counterpart Jacob Zuma in order to resolve the issue.
“So really, these are very serious national security affairs,” he said.
“In America and some other parts of the world, people are made to sign an agreement that they won’t say anything that they know about government for about 25 years after they left office. If there were no secrets to be kept, there wouldn’t have been that provision.
“The truth of the matter is that there are some issues between Nigeria and South Africa, but the president is in touch with South Africa and in one way or the other, the matter will be resolved,” he added.
Meanwhile, the All Progressives Congress (APC) has said Asari Dokubo’s denial over his involvement in the botched arms deals carries no weight until the federal government comes clean on the identity of the Nigerians aboard the plane carrying the $9.3 million impounded by the South African government.
In a statement issued in Abuja yesterday by its National Publicity Secretary, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, the party said its reaction followed a story published by and stating that Asari Dokubo was one of the Nigerians aboard the jet that carried the money to South Africa.
“To the best of our knowledge, that report has not been denied over 24 hours later. We therefore contend that Asari Dokubo’s denial of his involvement carries no weight until the government, which has claimed ownership of the funds, tells Nigerians who the two Nigerian citizens who were in the plane with an Israeli are.
“We have no business with Asari Dokubo. He can blab all he likes. We have no reason to disbelieve a widely circulated published report that named him as one of those on the plane. If he now says he was not on the plane, let the government come out and tell Nigerians who and who was on it,” it said.
APC wondered why the government has refused, for over three weeks now, to identify the Nigerians who flew on the plane that ferried the money to South Africa, especially after the Israeli who was also on the plane had been named.
“Identifying the Nigerians will help to unravel the circumstances surrounding the whole scandal. It will be interesting to know if the Nigerians are security officials, officials from the Office of the NSA who issued the end-user certificate for the transaction or ordinary Nigerians.
“It will be interesting to know their relationship with the government that qualified them to fly such a huge amount of money to another country without declaring it. It will be interesting to know if they are arms contractors.
“We hope the Jonathan administration will end its deafening silence on the issue immediately and come clean on the whole scandal,” the party said.

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