From Juliana Taiwo-Obalonye, Abuja
The Federal Government on Friday said that the candidate of the opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in next month’s presidential election, Atiku Abubakar has questions to answer when he returns from his trip to the United States regarding his role in the collapse of former Bank PHB.
This is even as it said the invitation to answer questions implies that the former vice president will be arrested on his return. Atiku who has not visited the US in 13 years, arrived Washington DC on Thursday, ahead of his scheduled speaking engagements at the US Chamber of Commerce on Friday.
Minister of Information and Culture, Lai Mohammed, disclosed this to State House Correspondents during a press briefing, saying Atiku has questions to answer “following fresh evidence that he benefitted from slush funds that led to the collapse of Bank PHB”.
According to the minister, the government has in its possession “paper trail which shows that he benefitted from a N156million. It started from an internal memo dated 13 January 2009 asking that a draft in favour of Atiku Abubakar of N156 million should be raised.”
Mohammed further disclosed that another memo on the same date was raised to confirm that the amount was raised from a “claimant management account”.
The minister said the government has proof of the account mandate, cheque and account statement showing Atiku as the signatory to the account that received the money. “We want him to stay in the US for as long as he wants but he has to explain to Nigerians when he returns,” he said.
Mohammed speaking on the visit, recalled that the government had earlier issued a statement advising the US not to issue him a visa. He however, said it remains the prerogative of the US government to issue visa to anyone.
“We are not perturbed one bit. He can go ahead and get a US green card. That will not save him from imminent defeat in the forthcoming election,” Mr Mohammed said. He also said “ election will be held here not in the US”.
Meanwhile, another spokesman of the Atiku Campaign Organisation, Segun Sowunmi has said that the APC and Federal Government are in a panic mode.
Reacting to the report that the PDP presidential candidate, Atiku will answer for the failure of BankPHB when he returns from the United States, he said the comment is from a drowning government.
His words: “There must be a limit to the embarrassing low level that the government must be allowed to fall that is tolerable.The comment being bandied by the Federal Government is just the lowest that has happened in a while. First of all, they were thinking that there was a major issue that stopped Atiku Abubakar from travelling to America and they stayed on this narrative for so long to an embarrassing proportion. It is embarrassing, disgusting, unacceptable and tantamount to dictatorial and draconian practice to say that Atiku cannot come to America.
“Presently we are in the business of getting Nigerians and friends of Nigeria to be ready for a president of Nigeria that can carry the responsibility with dignity. We are not going to dignify them with a response. They have lost all the creative initiative on how to be a government and a political party.The APC government is in a panic mode and what we have is a drowning government.”
In a similar vein, Atiku said with or without a trip to the US, he will dislodge President Muhammadu Buhari, his main rival, in next month’s election.
He said this in a statement by Phrank Shaibu, his special assistant on public communication.
He asked the Federal Government to bury its head in shame having failed to stop him from travelling to the US.
He said it was shameful that the governing APC took it upon itself to call on the authorities of another country not to grant a private citizen entry visa, which ordinarily should not be its business.
Last year, Lai Mohammed, minister of information, had asked the US not to grant Atiku visa.
But Atiku who arrived in the US on Thursday said the APC was jittery knowing that its government has failed.
He said Buhari’s days as president were numbered, “which explains why members of the ruling party have been running from pillar to post”.
The former vice-president described as cock and bull story, the allegation that he has a case to answer over the collapse of Platinum Habib Bank, Bank PHB.
He challenged the Federal Government to either prove his alleged corrupt activities, or forever remain quiet.