Arms deal: S'Africa seizes Nigerian firm's $5.7m

THE PUNCH Newspaper

There was outrage on Monday over a report that a Nigerian and South African registered companies were involved in another botched secret arms deal.

The $5.7m (about N936m) deal was burst by the South African National Conventional Arms Control Committee.

The sum was seized by the Asset Forfeiture Unit of the National Prosecuting Authority which is probing the deal alongside the Department for Offences Against the State in the Special Investigating Unit.

A major South African newspaper, City Press, which on Sunday reported the seizure, named Societe D’Equipment Internationaux as the Nigerian company and Cerberus as the South African firm involved in the deal.

The paper which did not say if Societe D’Equipment Internationaux was acting for the Nigerian government, however stated that the permit of Cerberus as a registered broker with the South African National Conventional Arms Control Committee, expired in May.

The South African police are currently investigating two Nigerians and an Israeli who allegedly smuggled $9.3m (about N1.5bn) to their country for an arms deal last month.

The $9.3m was seized from the three men by the South African Revenue Service at the Lanseria Airport, north-west of Johannesburg, on September 5.

City Press added that documents in possession of its sister newspaper, Rapport, showed that last month’s deal was approved by the Nigeria’s National Security Adviser, Col. Sambo Dasuki(retd.), who personally issued its end-user certificate .

An entire “shopping list” was supplied with the certificate, which included everything from helicopters to unmanned aircraft, rockets and ammunition.

The newspaper added that it was told by an impeccable source that Societe D’Equipment Internationaux paid the $5.7m into Cerberus’ account at Standard Bank.

Cerberus, according to City Press, has since applied for re-registration, but the application remained in the NCACC’s mailbox for more than two months.

It said that sources told Rapport that Cerberus apparently tried to pay the money back to the Nigerian company, after which the bank became suspicious.

The NPA’s Asset Forfeiture Unit subsequently obtained a court order in the South Gauteng High Court to seize the money.

The newspaper added that Cerberus’ attorney, Martin Hood, declined to comment on the matter.

NPA spokesperson Nathi Mncube said there were no indications that last month’s botched transaction and the latest were related.

But Mncube said that “ both are now the subject of a criminal investigation and all possible information and connections are being investigated.”

The latest deal has drawn criticisms from the All Progressives Congress, lawyers and the Coalition Against corrupt Leaders .

The APC, through its National Publicity Secretary, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, said it was apparent Nigeria had a slush fund somewhere corrupt government officials had free access to money to embarrass the nation and its citizens.

Mohammed said, “That this is happening barely three weeks after $9.3m cash was seized by the same South Africans is to say the least a shame and an embarrassment.

“It also goes to show that there is a slush fund somewhere that corrupt officials of the Goodluck Jonathan administration were dipping their hands to embarrass this nation and the citizenry. Who appropriated these funds, where is this money coming from?

“This goes to show you that this government is simply barefaced corrupt, inept and it does not give a damn about Nigeria’s reputation in the comity of nations.”

Also, two lawyers – Jiti Ogunye and Monday Ubani – urged Nigerians to ask the South African government to impose the stiffest punishment on those involved in the deal.

Ubani, a former chairman of Ikeja branch of the Nigerian Bar Association, said that the repeated seizure of Nigeria’s money in South Africa, was a confirmation of the claim by the immediate past governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria, Lamido Sanusi, that about $20bn was missing from the nation’s coffers.

He said, “The South African government should not only seize the money, they should seize the plane and also arrest the people involved in the deal. They (the South Africans) should also ensure that the people are punished so that they don’t come back to Nigeria to brag about it.

“If this is true, we should thank the South African government for exposing this and being on the side of the Nigerian people. Before now, we had always known that our money was being taken to foreign lands, but we didn’t have concrete facts.

“South Africa is encouraged to continue to do this and Nigerians will continue to do everything in their support to expose this kind of thing.”

Ogunye, who described the incident as “a huge embarrassment to the nation in the international scene”, said, “Nigerians should be outraged to demand more accountability from the central government”.

He urged Nigerians not to only ask questions, but to demand “the severest punishment for this”.

Ogunye said, “The excuses being given for this thing are untenable. You don’t carry cash to do international trade and transaction.

“It is not about buying arms, it is about money laundering on a ground scale and we ought to be alarmed. They are stealing money and they are transferring the money outside the shores of the country.”

Also, the Executive Chairman of CACOL, Debo Adeniran, said the latest incident was not the first time that persons fronting for Nigerians leaders were shipping large sums of money to other countries.

He said, “ Many of our people in position of authority take joy in shipping away money that belongs to Nigeria and Nigerians in the name of purchasing arms and ammunition.

“In times of insurgency, it is fashionable and easy to launder such amount of money. They will claim that that is what they want to use the money for, but we know that most of our leaders take joy in telling lies to cover up their criminal activities. And that is why they don’t want Boko Haram insurgency to go away. Even if it is true that they want to procure arms and ammunition, it may not necessarily be to prosecute the insurgency, it might be to create a market for their friends and cronies.

‘‘The other time, the government gave a cover to those who shipped $9.3m to South Africa under the guise that they wanted to use it directly in procuring arms and ammunition; that we don’t believe. We are still asking the South African authorities to expose the faces of the people that are culpable.”

However, a source in the intelligence community who spoke to one of our correspondents, said the Nigerian government was alarmed by moves by some South African officials to frustrate its war against terrorism.

He said, “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.

“We appeal to the media and all Nigerians, especially the opposition, to consider the overall national interest on security issues. They should not read negative meaning to every good intention of government in tackling insecurity in the country.

“The government and some top intelligence officers in Nigeria are concerned about how some officials of South Africa decided to frustrate the efforts of Nigeria at containing the activities of terrorists operating in the North-Eastern axis especially since authoritative sources confirmed that there were official communications at the top level of the two governments.”


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