Former President Goodluck Jonathan has said he won’t speak on the N2.1 billion arms deal probe saga and trial of some people in his government because, whatever he says would affect the ongoing investigation by President Muhammadu Buhari’s administration.
He also declared that his administration never negotiated with Boko Haram as is being bandied by some people.
Speaking in Geneva, Switzerland yesterday at a media interaction organised by the Geneva Press Club, Jonathan said as a former president, who laboured to build institutions, it will be out of place for him to do anything that would undermine government and processes.
He also said speaking on the arms purchase probe of the President Buhari-led administration would amount to subjudice as well as jeopardise the processes already instituted. He, however, said at the appropriate time, he would address all the issues being raised about the issue.
“I would have loved to speak extensively because, even back in Nigeria, people are saying that I should say something. In my country, there are laws. When issues are before the court, you are not expected to speak on them. If I speak now, it will affect court processes and investigation. What I want Nigerians to know is that we did key issues and things. We tried to build institutions. We encouraged separation of power. If I speak now, it will negate the efforts we made. Let us leave the institutions to do their jobs,” Jonathan said.
The former president said his government never at any time negotiated with Boko Haram, insisting that if it did, there would have been an agreement and plan of action thereafter, as was the case when the government talked with Niger Delta militants.
“We did not negotiate with Boko Haram. Government never set up any committee to negotiate with Boko Haram. What happens in Nigeria is that we play politics with serious issues. The group we negotiated with was militants in the Niger Delta. They had clear identity. After the negotiation, we came up with the Amnesty Programme. We told them to surrender their arms and government promised to train them and make them useful to themselves and the society. If we negotiated with Boko Haram, we would have come up with something.’
Jonathan, who is in Switzerland to be honoured by the Circle of Diplomats (Circle Diplomatique), Geneva, said Boko Haram became strong because at the time it became a terrorist group, the country did not have security architecture to combat it. The former president said his government had to tackle this first by establishing the security architecture, by investing in intelligence and technology. He said when this was in place, the government made progress in fighting insurgency, which ensured the successful hold of elections last year.
“Prior to my administration, Nigeria’s intelligence was designed largely around regime protection, but through much sustained efforts, we were able to build capacity such that our intelligence were able to trace and apprehend the masterminds behind such notorious terror incidences as the Christmas Day bombing of the St. Theresa Catholic Church in Madalla, Niger State.
“Other suspects were also traced and arrested, including those behind the Nyanya and Kuje bombings. Not only did we apprehend suspects, but, we tried and convicted some of them, including the ring leader of the Madalla bombing cell, Kabir Sokoto, who is right now serving a prison sentence.”
Asked why he did not go to the tribunal after losing the presidential election, the former president said leaders should be prepared to make sacrifices. He said having laboured to build institutions, like the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) and presided over the country during the elections, it would have been funny for him to go to the tribunal and challenge what an institution he was building did.
“I did not go to the tribunal because, first and foremost, I did not join politics for what I will gain. I joined politics because of what I can contribute to help the people and the country. However, most importantly, I believe that, as a leader, there is time to make sacrifice for the country to move forward. People challenge elections. I felt that this must stop. I set out to build institutions. INEC is one of the institutions we did everything to make independent and credible. If I go to challenge an election INEC conducted, it means that all the efforts were in vain. Besides, I am convinced that I could make sacrifices,” Jonathan said.
Speaking on the amount of money said to have been embezzled by past leaders, Jonathan said the figures being mentioned are alarming. He stated that missing or embezzled money are being presented as if they all happened during his five years tenure, whereas there are some being mentioned which happened before he came to power. He said since Minister of Information, Lai Mohammed, said 55 people, including governors embezzled money running into N1 trillion, he should have the names of those involved.
He, however, said the allegation that about one million barrel of oil was stolen everyday could not have been true, since the country, during his government, was officially producing roughly above two million barrels a day, which was not consistent. He said if one million barrel was therefore, being stolen daily, there was no way the country could have survived.
Jonathan said the allegation was the same way somebody stated that $49.8 billion was missing, which he later said was $12 billion and later $20 billion, saying when the issue was raised by the German chancellor with him in a meeting, he told the foreign leader that if such amount of money was missing in Nigeria, the country would collapse.
He said in order to get to the root of the matter, his administration instituted a probe, which involved forensic audit that later proved that such amount of money was never missing. (The Sun)