In a move attempting to diffuse the towering image and political mileage gained by the main opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) presidential candidate, Atiku Abubakar from his visit to the United States, the Minister of Information, Lai Mohammed says the PDP presidential candidate now has questions to answer regarding an alleged involvement in the collapse of a former Bank PHB.
Atiku departed Nigeria on Thursday 17 January in an unprecedented visit to the United States to meet with US government officials and the American business community to sell his candidature and business and economic proposals in the event he wins the election.
This is Mr. Abubakar’s first US trip, which the ruling party has used in touting him as a corrupt former Nigerian official who would not be let in to the United States ostensibly for some allegations of graft against him.
But Abubakar’s visit held his detractors spell-bound and the APC-led federal government scrambling for a new narrative to blunt the opposition growing momentum from the trip.
Atiku Abubakar who was a former vice president between 1999-2007 is due back in Nigeria Saturday 19 January.
But according to the information minister, there are “fresh evidence” the government stumbled upon that on 13 January 2009, Mr Abubakar was issued a check of
N156 million from the now collapsed Bank PHB.
Mr Mohammed told journalists on Friday that while the EFCC may not go after Abubakar, the PDP presidential candidate should be ready to provide answers to Nigerians as soon as he is back in Nigeria.
The minister said, “In any event, anytime Alhaji Atiku Abubakar returns home, he has questions to answer following the fresh evidence that we have, that he benefitted from the slush funds that led to the collapse of the former Bank PHB.
“The paper trail which we have here shows that he benefitted to the tune of
N156 million from that slush fund and we have evidence here of the account mandate in the name of Atiku Abubakar. We also have a copy of the check in which the sum of N156 million was issued to Atiku Abubakar dated the 13th of January 2009 and of course we also have the statement of account within that period that confirms that this sum was actually paid into his account”.
Bank PHB has been defunct for a decade, but it is the day after @atiku proved them wrong by coming to America that they suddenly remember that he has a case to answer? This is such a disappointment. I thought their fight back would be something smart. But this? This is pathetic!
— Ben Murray-Bruce (@benmurraybruce) January 18, 2019
Continuing, the information minister said the present administration is not perturbed that Atiku was able to secure a visa to the country, and that even if “he can go ahead and get the US green card…that will not save him from the imminent defeat in the forth-coming elections.”
“We don’t need to remind Alhaji Atiku Abubakar that the elections will be held here in Nigeria and not in the US,” the minister said.
But in a swift response, however, Atiku in a statement issued by his Special Assistant on Public Communication, Mr. Phrank Shaibu, dismissed the allegation as a “cock and bull story”, asking the Federal Government to bury its head in shame having failed to stop him from traveling to the US.
He said with or without a trip to the US, the PDP was sure to dislodge the All Progressives Congress (APC) from power in next month’s election.
The statement said, “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. Isn’t it a shame that the ruling party whose National Chairman, Adams Oshiomhole only yesterday gave official confirmation to the general belief that, even if Lawrence Anini becomes an APC member today, Buhari will forgive and consecrate him can turn around to accuse me of corruption today?
”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 benefited 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 BankPHB is now Keystone bank which was said to have been acquired Buhari’s cronies through AMCON last year,” Atiku said.
The PDP’s Presidential Campaign Organization (PPCO) in its own reaction said the ruling APC had become jittery over Atiku Abubakar’s “soaring popularity ahead of the elections”.
The party said that the claim against Atiku is another attempt as rubbing the former Vice President’s name in the mud, describing Atiku as 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, had 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 said.
The PPCO said Nigerians can see through all lies ans fabrications against Atiku Abubakar.
“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.
“President Buhari should as well, allow an open inquest into the alleged involvement of his relations in the
N1.032 trillion alleged corrupt acquisitions in 9Mobile and Keystone Bank PLC” the PPCO said.