- Deal is legitimate, says FG
By Aminu Imam, with agency report
South African authorities have confiscated yet another US$5.7 million arms money from Nigeria, nearly three weeks after seizing $9.3 million in cash transported by two Nigerians and an Israeli for arms purchase, according to Premium Times, which quoted a report by a South Africa-based newspaper, City Express yesterday.
As with the first deal, South Africa’s Asset Forfeiture Unit of the National Prosecuting Authority seized the $5.7 million (about N952 million) for allegedly being the proceeds of illegal transactions, the paper said.
The news came more than two weeks after two Nigerians and an Israeli national were arrested in South Africa after they attempted to smuggle US$9.3 million apparently meant for buying arms for the Nigerian intelligence service.
Under South African laws, a person entering or leaving the country is expected to carry cash not exceeding US$2,300, or the equivalent in foreign currency notes.
The news of the first transaction sparked anger in Nigeria after it emerged the private jet involved belonged to the head of the Christian Association of Nigeria, CAN, Ayo Ortisejafor.
Mr. Oritsejafor, a close ally of President Goodluck Jonathan, said the plane had been leased to a third party and he could not be blamed for its schedules.
The Nigerian government later admitted it was behind the arms deal, claiming it acted out of desperation for arms to defeat extremist sect, Boko Haram.
An investigation planned by the Senate into the transaction has yet to begin while the House of Representatives threw out a motion seeking a probe.
The South African newspaper, City Press, said documents in its possession show that the first consignment was signed-off by the office of the National Security Adviser (NSA), Sambo Dasuki, who issued the end-user certificate for the transaction.
An entire “shopping list” was supplied with the certificate, which included everything from helicopters to unmanned aircraft, rockets and ammunition, it said.
The latest transaction, according to the paper, was between Cerberus Risk Solutions, an arms broker in Cape Town, and Societe D’Equipments Internationaux, said to be a Nigerian company based in Abuja.
The paper said the deal fell apart after Cerberus which had earlier received from Nigeria R60 million (N1.02 billion) in its account at Standard Bank, tried to repay the money as it could not resolve its registration formalities with the South African authorities.
“Cerberus was previously registered as a broker with the National Conventional Arms Control Committee (NCACC), but the registration expired in May this year,” City Press said.
“The marketing and contracting permits also expired at the same time. The company has since applied for re-registration, but the application lay in the NCACC’s mailbox for more than two months.
“Sources told Rapport that Cerberus apparently tried to pay the money back to the Nigerian company, after which the bank became suspicious,” the paper reported.
The paper added that while the NPA’s Asset Forfeiture Unit subsequently obtained a court order in the South Gauteng High Court to seize the money, the NPA spokesperson Nathi Mncube, said there were no indications the two transactions were related.
“However, both are now the subject of a criminal investigation and all possible information and connections are being investigated,” Mr. Mncube was quoted as saying.
However, in a swift reaction, yesterday a statement by PR Nigeria, a public relation outfit close to the office of the National Security Adviser said that the South African media published documents confirmed the legitimacy of the botched arms deals between Nigeria and the former apartheid enclave.
Reports by Rapport and City Press appeared to finally vindicate Federal Government’s official position that the transactions were legitimate as they confirmed that contrary to insinuations, end user certificates and a ‘shopping’ list accompanied the transactions as well as a note from Nigerian government authenticating the deals, the statement said.
A top security source in the intelligence service disclosed that “in issuing end-user certificate, the Office of National Security Adviser ensures that it carries all relevant agencies and stakeholders along. Therefore, such a responsibility is not a unilateral development.
“For security reasons, the chains leading to the issuance of end-user certificate cannot be put in the public domain.
“The recent interest in arms purchase was informed by the challenges of insurgency which our nation had been grappling with in the last few years. This is why the understanding of all Nigerians is necessary.
“Nigeria is desperate to counter activities of terrorists no matter what it takes even when some of our friends are not being fair to us.