By Danlami Nmodu
Renowned human rights activist ,Barrister Festus Keyamo has queried the reported claims of Nigeria’s federal government on the $9.3million cash smuggled into South Africa in a private jet from Abuja.The lawyer described the federal government’s position as not only “ludicrous” but “laughable” and “untenable”.
According to Keyamo,“The truth is, any transaction the world over that is done by cash, in a huge volume like this and in this manner can only point to one thing: It is an illegal transaction or a transaction for an illegal purpose that is meant to be untraceable. This was a covert, illegal operation that went horribly wrong. The position of the Federal Government is a cock-and-bull story meant to be shoved down the throat of Nigerians, but some of us are not fools.
“The hard fact we must all accept now is that billions of our hard-earned monies are being smuggled out of the country on a regular basis under the guise of security matters and with the active connivance of security agencies. Little wonder, then, that the insurgency, rather than waning, is gathering momentum because certain persons, somewhere, are feeding fat on the situation whilst innocent lives and limbs are being wasted.”
He said in a statement on Wednesday , “I have just read, with some amusement, the position of the Federal Government regarding the cash totaling $9.3million that was seized by the South African authorities as an attempt was made to smuggle it into that country. From my little understanding, the Federal Government’s position can be summarised as follows:
“That it is aware of the movement of such large sum of money by cash out of the country.
“That the cash is meant for the purchase of arms to fight insurgency.
“That the transaction was done by cash to ensure the speed of the transaction.
“That it resorted to buy from South Africa because of procedural bottlenecks in the purchase of such items from western countries.
According to Keyamo, “The above position of the Federal Government is not only ludicrous, it is laughable, untenable and a story only fit to be told to the marines.
He therefore raised some “rhetoric posers” he described as “germane to this issue”
Keyamo’s posers run thus; “Is it really faster and safer to do an international transaction of such magnitude by ferrying cash across the continent or by a simple wire transfer that can go through in a matter of few minutes or few hours?
“If, 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 beforehand? How could the South African Government be sure that the arms were purchased legitimately by the Nigerian government and not by insurgents if they were not officially informed beforehand?
“If indeed the manufacturer(s) of such equipment was/were expecting such large amount by cash, why did they not make adequate arrangements with the authorities in South Africa to declare and clear the cash on arrival?
“Why was money belonging to the Federal Government and meant for purchase of equipment for the Federal Government moved by a private jet and by private individuals and why were they not accompanied by the officials of the Department of State Services or the office of the National Security Adviser in official capacities?
“Why would a government that is at the peak of promoting the cashless policy in our economy be the chief breaker of that policy by moving such a large amount by cash?
“If, indeed, it was a legitimate transaction of the Federal Government, why 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 is above the limit of cash allowed into that country, why would a whole government like Nigeria not know the simple immigration laws of a sister and friendly country before allowing that type of amount of cash to be taken to that country?
“Why would the Nigerian government seek to smuggle cash into a country without disclosure if it was, indeed, for a legitimate transaction?
“From where did the Federal Government source that amount in Nigeria? Was it from the Central Bank of Nigeria or from the black market? Nigerians demand answers to this with proof.
“Is it just a wicked coincidence that it is the aircraft belonging to a personal friend and unapologetic ally of the President in the person of Pastor Ayo Oritsejafor (my big brother in Warri), that was used to smuggle the cash?
“If, contrary to the above posers, the transaction was contracted out to a private company in Nigeria, does it not 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 a financial institution? Keyamo asked.