Chris Steven, Abuja
A Civil Society group, Movement For Nigeria has revealed how former President Olusegun Obasanjo converted some national assets into personal use during his time as President.
The group said the action of the ex-president amounted to stealing of assets belonging to Nigerians and called for his immediate prosecution by anti graft agencies.
Addressing journalists on Monday, Olaiya Ayomide, National Co-ordinator of the group listed the national assets to include Obasanjo Farms Ota, Bell University, amongst others.
He expressed surprise on the inability of successive administrations to recover such national assets converted to personal properties by Obasanjo.
He said in the interest of justice, equity and fairness, consistent with the treatment meted out to other treasury looters, the federal government must immediately take over all the assets that Dr. Obasanjo acquired with Nigeria’s money.
He urged the President Buhari administration not to allow itself to be blackmailed by the ex-president, saying such has become his antics once he is being investigated.
He said Nigerians are of the worn out strategy of corrupt individuals jumping into public criticism of any government of the day so that they can claim they are being persecuted for their outspokenness once the nation’s anti-corruption institutions begin probing or prosecuting them.
According to Ayomide, Obasanjo became an overnight critic of the Buhari administration only after finding out that the anti-corruption agencies have traced several of the high-profile theft of public fund to him or his cronies.
He explained that, “In fact, it is most worrisome that his days of appropriating our commonwealth date back to his first coming as a military leader when appropriated Operation Feed the Nation (OFN) and converted same into Obasanjo Farms Nigeria (OFN) Limited. This was to later metamorphose into his current Ota Farm. He has therefore converted Federal Government property into his personal asset in what has remained one of the world’s worst case of abuse of office.
“This same farm in Ota has been used as a conduit for siphoning public funds using bogus contract for the supply of livestock at inflated prices to the Presidency during popular festivities and holidays. The practice remained in place until the present government put a stop to it as part of cost saving measures and to judiciously use public funds. It remains to be seen if this discontinuation of the fraudulent contract is one of the grouses that the former president has against Nigerians and the basis on which he is today doing everything to punish us all by instigating instability.”
Abayomi said the rot in the power sector is equally a direct consequence of the theft of billions of naira which Dr. Obasanjo claimed he invested in the sector.
He said the money had been the subject of several investigation by the National Assembly, including the $10.6 billion probe.
“Unfortunately, death threat and blackmail made federal lawmakers to abandon the investigation in all instances. It is reassuring that one particular anti-graft agency has now made sufficient headway to file charges against Obasanjo, which has now made him to become an emergency critic just so that he can alleged witch-hunt.
“Several of the ministers that served under Obasanjo in his eight year as a civilian president have also begin to cooperate with the relevant law enforcement agencies that are investigating money stolen under his government in exchange for lessened punishment. The feelers out there are that their testimonies indicted their former boss and also exposed non-public officers that colluded with him using NGOs as cover. Those indicted with Obasanjo are the ones he has now invited to form an alliance that will give them the same level of influence as an opposition party under his supposed Coalition for Nigeria. The strategy as we have been made to understand is that anyone of them that is now arrested or arraigned for corruption will simply claim to be a victim of vendetta,” he said.
He urged the government to have the courage to tell citizens when it is being blackmailed into dropping corruption investigations or cases against high-profile former office holders so that the decision to accede to their demands can be subject to public debate because citizens will always back the government to combat graft and not succumb to any arm-twisting tactics from someone like Obasanjo.