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WILL THE REAL ABUBAKAR ATIKU, PLEASE STAND UP

PHOTO: FORMER VICE PRESIDENT ATIKU ABUBAKAR IS GIVEN A HAND AFTER A TRIP.
PHOTO: FORMER VICE PRESIDENT ATIKU ABUBAKAR IS GIVEN A HAND AFTER A TRIP.
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On Election Day would Nigerians be happier that former Vice President Abubakar Atiku contested and won the 2011 presidential elections? This is an important question that needs sober reflection by well meaning Nigerians. This is a man that has not only spent years trying to fool everybody in sight with his phony-baloney, dime-store philosophies; he’s now trapped in the patently pathetic phase of fooling himself with the politics of contradictions and zoning.

Mr. Wale Akinola in his article (published by the Vanguard of Sunday July 09, 2006, How I made my money by Atiku Abubakar) wrote, “ Many know that the vice president Atiku Abubakar is a wealthy man. They also know that he had acquired considerable wealth prior to the time he became the nations number two man”. He went further to state that Atiku’s personal wealth is a result of his passion for entrepreneurship, wise investment, hard work, and luck.

Surely, Atiku must be a rare gem in public service to amass such massive wealth as a result of the qualities he claimed to have possessed. It is a known fact that the former vice president was the controller of the Nigerian Customs and Exercise. It is also commonplace that it was during his tenure and remit at the Nigerian Customs and Exercise that the infamous “53 suitcase” scandal involving the emir of Gwandu occurred; and he would have been prosecuted but for the unfortunate coup of General Ibrahim Babangida.

A recent United States Senate report accused Atiku Abubakar and his wife Jennifer Douglas of laundering over $40 million in suspicious funds into the United States between 2000 and 2008. The report further stated that most of the funds were through wire transfers sent by offshore corporations to U.S. bank accounts. Of the $40 million identified in the US investigation, $25 million was reportedly wire-transferred by offshore corporations into more than 30 U.S. bank accounts opened by Atiku’s wife (Ms. Douglas).

Atiku’s corrupt practices was also stated in a 2008 civil complaint, the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission alleged that the Atikus received over $2 million in bribe payments in 2001 and 2002, from Siemens AG, a major German corporation.The report stated, “While Ms. Douglas denies wrongdoing, Siemens has already pled guilty to U.S. criminal charges and settled civil charges related to bribery and told the Subcommittee that it sent the payments to one of her U.S. accounts.”

One and a half years after becoming vice president, Atiku violated our laws by purchasing a mansion in Potomac, Maryland United States for one million, seven hundred and fifty thousand dollars ($1,750,000). This two storey building was purchased in the name of Jennifer E. Douglas, Atiku’s wife. Part One of the fifth schedule to the 1999 constitution prohibited, in part, public officers from having bank account and owning assets abroad. This is a clear reflection of who Alhaji Atiku is all about.

Also, he used President Obasanjo's privatization scheme to his advantage and to the detriment of the Nigerian people. With close ties to the various managing directors of the Bureau of Public Enterprise, who serves as the secretariat of the National Council on Privatization and is charged with the overall responsibility of implementing the council's policies on privatization and commercialization of the Federal government of Nigeria, Atiku purchased huge enterprises and public agencies for far less than their actual worth.

The Petroleum Technology Development Fund scandal is also fresh in our memory. The Fund is dedicated to the development, promotion, and implementation of petroleum technology and manpower development through research and training of Nigerians as graduate, professional, technician and craftsmen in the relevant fields in the petroleum and solid minerals industry.

The former Vice President, who supervised the fund, used it to finance his private enterprise. It should be recalled that both a government panel and an Economic and Financial Crimes Commission panel found Atiku guilty of diverting funds meant for the Fund's operations nationwide to various banks to promote his private interests. The Vice President used US$10 million of the US$125 million fund as collateral in support of a loan of N1.2 billion granted to Otumba Oyewole Fasawe (his associate) by the Trans International bank in Lagos. The financial gain made by the Vice President from Fasawe over the loan was paid into Atiku's Campaign Organization account with Bank PHB.

In early 2006, the US Federal Bureau of Investigation raided Atiku's home in Washington, USA, over allegation of involvement with Mr. William Jefferson, a US Congressman, in a US $500,000 bribe over a telecommunications deal in Nigeria. The FBI alleges in a US court to have found US $90,000, of the bribe money concealed in a freezer in the office of Mr. Jefferson. When accosted with these serious allegations, Vice President Atiku said that the allegations are unworthy of considerations.

How would a vice president of a democratic republic call the allegation and investigation of corruption involving a United States congressman and impropriety regarding a governmental fund as in this case, “The Petroleum Trust Development Fund” unworthy of consideration? The vice president in his letter said, “Firstly I will repeat that I have said time and time again regarding Congressman William Jefferson – I did not have any relationship with Congressman Jefferson other than the usual courtesies which someone in my position will be expected to extend to someone in Congressman Jefferson’s position”.

Maybe I am naïve as to the diplomatic nuances of official etiquette. The New York Times of June 7, 2006 entitled (Documents Point to Bribes of a Nigerian by Congressman) states, “…The documents included an affidavit signed by FBI agent who said that the Nigerian vice president, Atiku Abubakar, now a candidate for president of that oil-rich West African nation, asked for at least half of the profit of a technology company controlled by Mr. Jefferson that was seeking to do business in Nigeria….” The article further stated that, “In the affidavit an FBI agent Edward S. Cooper, said cell phone records suggested that Mr. Jefferson visited a home owned by Mr. Abubakar and his wife in Potomac, MD an affluent suburb of Washington, around midnight last July 31 with the intention of delivering money to the Nigerian leader while he was on visit to the United States….” The former vice president begged the question instead of explaining to the National Assembly and the Nigerian people the nature of diplomacy he was conducting at the unholy hour of MIDNIGHT.

Edward Weidenfeld, the vice president’s Washington lawyer in an interview with the Washington Post of July 22, 2006 entitled (Nigerian Entangled in Jefferson Investigation), repeated the vice presidents earlier statement that the only thing the vice president ever received from Jefferson in the unholy hour were letters promoting IGate telecommunication deals. The vice president in his letter to the National Assembly omitted that fact.

Instead of running for president, Atiku should be explaining to Nigerians why his name always comes up when the issue of corruption is raised, that is, involvement in “the 53 suitcase” the corruption while at Customs, the acquisition of the Potomac Maryland Mansion (prohibited by the Nigerian constitution), the beating of a journalist, the privatization of public companies, Halliburton Scandal and the present United States Senate’s Report among others.

Felix Ayanruoh Esq. is at [email protected]

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