THE Federal Government is set to quiz the presidential candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP),Alhaji Atiku Abubakar, over an alleged N156million payment from the defunct Bank PHB. Atiku, according to Information and Culture Minister Lai Mohammed, allegedly benefitted from the payment that led to the demise of the bank.
The former vice president is currently on a visit to the USA. But Mohammed said yesterday that “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.”
Atiku’s party, the PDP dared the Federal Government to go ahead with its threat to arrest him on the allegation,while the presidential candidate’s spokesman dismissed the N156million claim as a cock and bull story Mohammed said: “The document we have shows that he benefitted to the tune of N156 million from that fund. “The paper which we have here started from an internal memo on the Jan. 13, 2009.” “These are pieces of fresh evidence as to his involvement in the collapse of Bank PHB.
So we want him to stay as long he wants in the US but as soon he comes back, he has to explain to the electorate and to Nigerians what is his role in the collapse in the former Bank PHB.” The minister said the Federal Government was not losing sleep over Atiku’s US trip,saying: “You can recall that a few weeks ago, I did issue a statement advising the US government not to issue visa to Atiku.
“Remember also that in that same press conference, I also stated that it remains the prerogative of the US government to issue visa to anyone it deems fit. “Let me say right away that we are not perturbed one bit that Alhaji Atiku Abukakar was able to secure visa to the US. As a matter of fact, he can go ahead and get the US Green card.That will not save him from imminent defeat in the forthcoming election.
“I want to remind Abubakar that the elections will be right here in Nigeria and not in the US.” Asked why the fresh allegation against Atiku was coming now, Mohammed said: “Because even though this happened in 2009, and the case on the collapse of BANK PHB has been on, this evidence is fresh. “In any case, there is no statute of limitation on this case. “Like I told you, this is a freshly-uncovered evidence.
Whether or not he travelled to the US, we would still have disclosed this evidence.” PDP dares Buhari over threats to arrest Atiku Responding last night to the allegations against Atiku ,the PDP Presidential Campaign Organisation (PPCO) dared government to go ahead and arrest him.
The spokesman for the organisation,Mr.Kola Ologbondiyan, told reporters that the planned arrest was both laughable and a heinous plot to frame Atiku borne out of fear of his victory in the February 16 presidential election.
“It is reprehensible that Mr. President will descend abysmally low to fabricate outright lies and falsehood in a bid to discredit a more qualified and acceptable presidential candidate”, Ologbondiyan said. The PDP campaign spokesman added that Atiku has nothing to do with the alleged issues leading to the collapse of Bank PHB, stressing that the PDP presidential candidate is an honest and hard working Nigerian who has no skeleton of any sort in his cupboard.
“For emphasis, even the Chairman of President Buhari’s Advisory Committee Against Corruption, Prof. Itse Sagay, has since told the world that the Buhari Presidency has searched everywhere and could not find anything incriminating on Atiku Abubakar.
“The world already knows that this attempt to mudsling our presidential candidate is coming out of President Buhari’s frustration over Atiku Abubakar’s successful outing in the United States, for which the Buhari Presidency has gone into full hallucination. .”The PPCO, however, counselled the APC to note that Nigerians can see through their lies, fabrications and frustration and that their scheme against Atiku Abubakar is already dead on arrival.
“If anything, the PPCO will want President Buhari to open the books and provide explanation for the N9 trillion stolen under his watch as Minister of Petroleum Resources as detailed in the leaked NNPC memo. “Finally, the PPCO states that the PDP presidential candidate, our great party and indeed all Nigerians, who have already reached a national consensus to vote-in Atiku Abubakar as the next President of our country, will not be distracted by this unfounded allegation by the rejected President Buhari and his handlers.” A similar response came from Atiku’s Special Assistant on Public Communication, Mr. Phrank Shaibu. Shaibu said the allegation against Atiku was a cock and bull story.
The allegation,he also said ,stemmed from what he called Atiku’s growing popularity, especially his current trip to the USA. He said the Federal Government having failed to stop Washington from granting visa to Atiku had to devise another strategy to embarrass him. He also said that with or without a trip to the US, the PDP will defeat the President Muhammadu Buhari-led All Progressives Congress in next month’s election.
Said Atiku: “It is disgusting to continue to spin allegations of corruption against me by people who have failed to come forward with a single shred of evidence of my misconduct while in office. “They just suddenly woke up to the reality that their lies about Atiku being corrupt can no longer hold? I challenge the Federal Government to come up with evidence that I benefitted from N156 million slush funds through Claremont Management Services Account on 13th January, 2009 as well as the collapse of Bank PHB as they have alleged. “It is instructive to note that the same Bank PHB is now Keystone Bank, which was said to have been acquired by Buhari’s cronies through AMCON last year.”