Government to question Nigerian presidential candidate over alleged slush fund

Nigeria’s main opposition candidate for the February 2019 presidential election Atiku Abubakar is currently in the United States to visit members of the US Congress and some allies of US President Donald Trump. He was also scheduled to speak at the US Chamber of Commerce today. But once he’s done with his visit, the Nigerian government will question him over his alleged role in the collapse of Bank PHB, one of the banks rescued by the country’s bad bank AMCON in 2011.

“In any event, any time Abubakar returns home, he has questions to answer following the fresh evidence that we have that he benefitted from slush funds that led to the collapse of the former Bank PHB,” Nigeria’s Information Minister Lai Mohammed told State House correspondents on Friday, while reacting to Atiku’s visit to the United States.

Before his Thursday arrival in the US, the former vice president had not been in the country for 13 years. With that being one of the evidence of corruption often raised against Atiku in Nigeria, Mohammed dismissed the presidential candidate’s US trip, saying anytime he returned to Nigeria, there are questions he needed to answer.

“The document we have, shows that he benefitted to the tune of N156 million from that slush fund. The paper, which we have here, started from an internal memo on January 13, 2009, which reads ‘please refer for discussion your requested overdraft in favour of Atiku Abubakar for N156 million and deliver same to me. Please note that it must be delivered today (January 13).’”

“We have evidence here of the account mandate — the name of Atiku Abubakar — we also have a copy of the cheque in which the sum of N156 million was issued to Atiku Abubakar dated January 13, 2009 and of course we also have statement of account within that period that confirms that this sum was actually paid into his account,” Mohammed said.

While the revelation would have been celebrated as another step forward in the fight against corruption in Nigeria, it is expected to be largely seen as another proof of the selective fight against corruption which the government of President Muhammadu Buhari has been accused of on several occasions.

Few days ago, Nigeria’s President Buhari was criticized for the way he responded to a question about his relationship with a sitting governor accused of receiving bribe. The president had questioned (YouTube) the authenticity of the video evidence given. Another video is also being circulated on social media which shows the chairman of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) Adams Oshiomole saying once a politician joins the ruling party, his sins are forgiven. His statement has been termed by many supporters of the opposition as confirming what they have always alleged.

Atiku, 72, worked for the election of President Buhari in 2015 after leaving then ruling Peoples Democratic Party (PDP). He is seen as the biggest threat to the re-election of President Buhari at the February 16, 2019 presidential election.