7th September, 2011
The Presidency has described a report published in a national newspaper on Tuesday which indicated that President Goodluck Jonathan was on the list of corrupt governors compiled by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, before the 2007 elections as â€œmalicious and disrespectfulâ€.
President Jonathan was the governor of Bayelsa State before he contested alongside the late President Umaru Yarâ€™Adua in the 2007 presidential election.
The national newspaper had based its report on comments contained in a leaked diplomatic cable sent to Washington by a former United Statesâ€™ Ambassador to Nigeria published by online whistleblower, Wikileaks.
The American Ambassador had claimed that Jonathan was among the corrupt governors the anti-graft agencies said it was investigating in the run up to the 2007 elections.
The leaked cable, according to the newspaper, had also indicated that Mrs. Patience Jonathan, the wife of the President was investigated by the EFCC over funds seized from her at Lagos Airport in 2006. But the Presidency described the assertions in the cable as published by the newspaper as completely false.
In his reaction contained in a statement signed by Reuben Abati, special adviser to the President and made available to P.M.NEWSÂ , the presidency said the story was not published for any useful purpose, but to â€œdistract the President from his Agenda for National Transformationâ€.
Abati added that contrary to the report, it was President Jonathanâ€™s record of achievement and incorruptibility in public office that influenced his choice as the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP vice presidential candidate in 2007.
The Presidency also said the EFCC itself has denied reports that Mrs. Patience Jonathan was arrested on money laundering charges, citing an interview granted to journalists by Mallam Nuhu Ribadu, former Chairman of EFCC last year during which he spoke on the issue.
â€œIt is a matter of public record, as the editors of the Trust well know, that no charge of corruption was ever made or sustained against the President while he served as Governor of Bayelsa State, while his many achievements as governor of the state speak for themselves.
â€œThe report also includes an unjustifiable attempt to impugn the Presidentâ€™s integrity by rehashing a well-worn fictional account of alleged corruption by the First Lady which has been dismissed as arrant nonsense by the former Chairman of the EFCC, Mallam Nuhu Ribadu.
â€œFor the avoidance of any doubt whatsoever, President Goodlcuk Ebele Jonathan has never been on any EFCC list of corrupt governors and we challenge anyone to prove otherwise.
â€œIn point of fact, it was his record of achievement and incorruptibility in public office that recommended him to the leadership of the PDP as a worthy candidate for the Vice Presidency in 2007.
â€œFurthermore, the cable which purports to be the source of the story is unverified. Moreover, even the alleged cable itself cites as its source “reports” and yet the newspaper went ahead to report an alleged incidence which was not in the purported cable and involved the seizure of large sums of money from the President’s wife while he was governor.
“The incident described above never happened and is at best a figment of the reporterâ€™s imagination. Let me state categorically that at no time was $13.5 million or any other sum seized from Dame Patience Jonathan at the Lagos airport or any other airport.
â€œI would have thought that your paper would have been more thorough in your investigations especially as the former Executive Chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, Malam Nuhu Ribadu, who was in office at the time President Jonathan was a governor did state categorically those allegations were not just lies but they were inserted into the media for political purposes.
“Malam Ribadu’s precise statement on this issue made on the 13th of October, 2010 is as follows: ‘We investigated it and there was nothing connected with Mrs Jonathan. Even as at that time those who were desperately looking to make a political mile out of every opportunity decided to use that to link it with them simply because they wanted to kick them out of office at that time’.
“Finally, let me state that President Jonathan remains committed to Press freedom and freedom of speech which is why he signed the Freedom of Information Bill into law.
â€œWith the passage of this bill into law, the expectation of the President is that such a law could be utilised by the press to thoroughly investigate allegations before they are released into the public arena as truth.
â€œThe FOI law allows your reporters to request for records from the EFCC which when perused would establish the truth about any matter that has been before the EFCC. With the FOI law, there is no longer any excuse for speculative journalism beyond laziness,â€ Abati concluded in the statement.
By Oluokun Ayorinde/Abuja