Shehu Sani’s ar­rest, de­ten­tion po­lit­i­cally mo­ti­vated –Aide

In this in­ter­view with ENIOLA AKINKUOTU, an aide to de­tained Sen­a­tor Shehu Sani, Suleiman Ahmed, speaks about the tra­vails of his prin­ci­pal

The Punch - - PANORAMA -

YOUR boss, Sen­a­tor Shehu Sani, has been in the cus­tody of the Eco­nomic and Fi­nan­cial Crimes Com­mis­sion for two weeks, based on al­le­ga­tions that he re­ceived money from some­one in or­der to bribe the act­ing EFCC Chair­man, Ibrahim Magu (Cuts in) Ac­tu­ally there was an is­sue be­tween Sen­a­tor Shehu Sani and a busi­ness­man, Sani Dauda, who is the owner of ASD (Al­haj Sani Dauda) Mo­tors. He is a ma­jor dealer in Peu­geot ve­hi­cles. In Novem­ber, he had a le­gal tus­sle with his in-law. So, he was de­tained and re­leased. Then Sen­a­tor Sani paid him a cour­tesy visit at his res­i­dence. As Dauda was see­ing off the vis­i­tor, he ob­served that the sen­a­tor had come in an old Peu­geot car. Then he told Sani that he had some of the cur­rent Peu­geot mod­els for sale and asked him to pur­chase the car. Sani re­sponded jok­ingly by say­ing the cur­rent model of the car was too ex­pen­sive for him. Dauda gave the sen­a­tor the op­tion of pay­ing in in­stal­ments be­cause of their re­la­tion­ship. The sen­a­tor later vis­ited Dauda in his of­fice in Kaduna and de­posited $13, 000 and later $11, 000, making a to­tal of $24, 000. Af­ter re­ceiv­ing the pay­ment, Dauda is­sued the sen­a­tor with an in­voice. The to­tal cost of the car is N17, 500,000. He gave the sen­a­tor a GTB ac­count num­ber and told him to make sub­se­quent de­posits into that ac­count and Sani left.

How did the EFCC get in­volved in the mat­ter?

A few days later, Sen­a­tor Sani re­ceived an in­vi­ta­tion let­ter from the EFCC, ask­ing him to come on Thurs­day, Jan­uary 2, 2020. How­ever, the sen­a­tor de­cided to hon­our the in­vi­ta­tion on De­cem­ber 31, 2019, which was two days be­fore sched­ule. He was not even ar­rested, as re­ported in the me­dia, but went there will­ingly. I ac­com­pa­nied him on the trip to the EFCC. I did not know why he was in­vited. He was given a sheet of pa­per and asked to write a state­ment in re­sponse to some al­le­ga­tions lev­elled against him. The EFFC of­fi­cials al­leged that some money was given to him in or­der to bribe the act­ing Chair­man of the com­mis­sion, Ibrahim Magu. Ini­tially, they men­tioned $10,000 and later, said it was $20, 000. We don’t know the ex­act sum of money in­volved. But Sani ex­plained that he was the one who gave money to Dauda. Af­ter the clar­i­fi­ca­tion, the sen­a­tor was in­formed that he would need a surety to take his bail and he was given a bail bond. The con­di­tion was that he should pro­duce two sureties who must be at least di­rec­tors in the fed­eral civil ser­vice. This was around 11pm and it was not pos­si­ble for him to pro­duce any di­rec­tor. So, he was de­tained pend­ing his abil­ity to meet bail conditions. The next day, Jan­uary 1, 2020, was a pub­lic hol­i­day, but we were able to get two di­rec­tors. How­ever, the EFCC did not re­lease him since it was a pub­lic hol­i­day. The sec­ond day, the sen­a­tor was trans­ferred from the hold­ing fa­cil­ity to the EFCC head­quar­ters. The com­plainant, Dauda, was also brought to the EFCC head of­fice so that he and the sen­a­tor could meet face to face. It was at that point that we be­gan to un­der­stand some new de­tails. Dauda said he wasn’t the one that wrote the pe­ti­tion, but his son did. He said he did not know how to read or write. Dauda also said he had spo­ken with Isa Fun­tua, a close friend of the Pres­i­dent. He said he called Fun­tua to in­form him that his son had writ­ten a pe­ti­tion to the EFCC in which Shehu Sani was wrongly im­pli­cated and that Fun­tua should in­ter­vene in the mat­ter. Th­ese de­tails were in his state­ment.

Has Isa Fun­tua been in­vited to clear the air?

It is the re­spon­si­bil­ity of the EFCC to in­vite him be­cause his name ap­peared. They should in­vite him, the way Shehu Sani was in­vited. Are they afraid to do so be­cause he is a mem­ber of the ca­bal? Are they afraid that if he speaks, he could vin­di­cate Sen­a­tor Sani? So, they may de­lib­er­ately de­cide not to in­vite him.

How did the al­le­ga­tion that Sen­a­tor Sani at­tempted to bribe the Chief Jus­tice of Nige­ria come up?

When Dauda was asked what the money was for, he said it was meant for brib­ing Magu. But when he was told that he had no case with the EFCC, he said the money was meant for brib­ing the CJN to in­flu­ence the case be­tween him­self and his in-law. Again, they asked him if he had any case be­fore the Supreme Court, but he said no. Hav­ing a case in court does not nec­es­sar­ily mean that it is at the level of the Supreme Court. In­stead of grant­ing the sen­a­tor bail when it was es­tab­lished that there was no case, we sud­denly heard that the EFCC had ob­tained a court or­der to de­tain him for two weeks for in­ves­ti­ga­tion. One cu­ri­ous thing about the court or­der was that we were not in­formed of the de­vel­op­ment. Even our lawyer was not in­formed.

Do you think the ar­rest is po­lit­i­cally mo­ti­vated?

Yes, I do. A week be­fore his ar­rest, Sen­a­tor Sani said on so­cial me­dia that from the look of things, what the govern­ment was say­ing, as re­gards poverty al­le­vi­a­tion, was that if the Buhari govern­ment re­mained in power for 50 years, it still would not be able to lift Nige­ri­ans out of poverty. Also, Sani has con­sis­tently crit­i­cised the govern­ment and some of its un­healthy pro­grammes. His crit­i­cism of govern­ment is based on facts and not pol­i­tics. So, we feel that some govern­ment agen­cies see this as an av­enue to set­tle old scores. If not, how can you de­tain some­one who al­legedly col­lected money in or­der to bribe an­other per­son, while the per­son who ac­tu­ally ad­mit­ted to giv­ing the bribe is walk­ing free? Why not charge both of them to court? Why search his house and of­fices? Why freeze his ac­counts?

Why were his ac­counts frozen?

It’s be­cause they have not been able to es­tab­lish a case against him that they are now fish­ing for new ev­i­dence that doesn’t ex­ist. Sen­a­tor Sani has an in­voice from Dauda and his bank ac­count, which shows that there was a gen­uine trans­ac­tion.

Are you say­ing Sen­a­tor Sani has never com­mit­ted fraud be­fore?

He was in the Se­nate for four years and that is the only pub­lic of­fice he has ever held. He served in sen­si­tive com­mit­tees where he could have eas­ily re­ceived bribes if he wanted. He was chair­man of the com­mit­tee on for­eign debt and he served on the ad hoc com­mit­tee to in­ves­ti­gate the SGF, Babachir Lawal. So, if he was cor­rupt, he would have com­pro­mised, but he never did.

Why did he re­ject the EFCC’S lie de­tec­tor test?

He re­fused two things the EFCC tried to do. He re­jected the lie de­tec­tor test and he also re­fused to hold the EFCC board, which some sus­pects are usu­ally forced to hold up when tak­ing pho­tos that are sent to the press. He re­jected the lie de­tec­tor be­cause he be­lieved that you can­not keep some­one in an un­der­ground cell and sub­ject him to psy­cho­log­i­cal tor­ture and tie him up to a lie de­tec­tor ma­chine. Why is it that the per­son who the pur­ported bribe orig­i­nated from is walk­ing free? The per­son who ad­mit­ted giv­ing the bribe is the key sus­pect and the one who should be charged. Sen­a­tor Sani will not be stupid to ac­cept such a test. How do we know if the ma­chine has not been ma­nip­u­lated? Who has ever been sub­jected to a lie de­tec­tor test by the EFCC since in­cep­tion? Why should the sen­a­tor be the first?

Do Sen­a­tor Sani’s rel­a­tives and lawyers have ac­cess to him?

Ini­tially, there was a lot of in­tim­i­da­tion be­cause in the first five days of his ar­rest, when­ever food was taken to him, we would be made to wait for sev­eral hours till some­body at the top gives the or­der for clear­ance. Due to this, he doesn’t eat on time. Some­times, he gets his break­fast at 11am or 12 while he gets his lunch at 4pm. That is why his fam­ily re­solved to give him food twice a day. So, does this have to do with ex­tor­tion?

•Dauda

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