• Quizzes former presidential spokesman, Reuben Abati
From Iheanacho Nwosu and James Ojo, Abuja
The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) has arrested and detained former minister of Federal Capital Territory (FCT), Senator Bala Mohammed over alleged N1.2 trillion fraud.
Mohammed will tell the EFFCC what he knows about a controversial N1 trillion land swap programme, alleged contracts scam totalling N1 billion and N1 billion bribe.
Similarly, the commission has quizzed former special adviser to President Goodluck Jonathan on Media and Publicity, Dr. Reuben Abati, in connection with the controversial $2.1 billion arms deal scam in the office of the former Office of the National Security Adviser (ONSA), Col. Sambo Dasuki (read).
It is still unclear how much the anti-graft agency has accused him of collecting from the alleged arms deal cash.
A senior EFCC official, who declined to be named, confirmed the arrest of Mohammed and quizzing of Abati, last night.
Spokesman of the commission, Wilson Uwujaren, did not pick several calls from Daily Sun, yesterday.
However, Mohammed’s arrest came few months after his son, Shamsudeen was arrested and released on administrative bail by the anti-graft body. Four houses allegedly traced to him and valued at N872 million were reportedly seized by the commission.
Apart from an allegation of awarding fictitious contracts, Mohammed has been under EFCC investigation for allegedly allocating 12 choice plots worth billions of naira and 37 other commercial plots of land worth about N8 billion to an alleged front named Tariq Hammoud.
EFCC said 16 companies allegedly benefitted from the phony contracts and are all linked to the former minister.
Last month, Mohammed’s media consultant, in a statement, confirmed that the former minister was under investigation by the EFCC.
He claimed that Mohammed, as other key appointees in Jonathan’s administration, was under the gaze of the anti-corruption agency.
The statement noted however, added that, “for the avoidance of doubt, his position is that both the on-going investigation (which he considers legitimate and the trial by the media (which he considers mischievous), is the price that has to be to be paid for leadership. That was why he participated in the House of Representatives investigation of the Land Swap Programme notwithstanding his misgivings at what he considered a clearly pre-arranged outcome. Even now, the former minister has averred that he will be ready to honour any invitation from any anti-graft agency.”
Giving a lengthy explanation on different allegations against the former minister, the statement said on claims that he allocated lands to friends and family members, “one of the statutory functions of any minister of the FCT is to allocate land. However, it is a misconception to think that Abuja has inexhaustible buildable land areas waiting for a minister to allocate to whomsoever he likes. Rather, following verifiable precedents, what the former FCT minister did, with his team, was to carve out some new areas which were subsequently allocated to Nigerians and residents.
“Such new areas include Guzape, Kiyami, etc. To make heavy weather of the fact that he allocated land to his friends, family members and staff of the FCT as if these are not Nigerians, is patently mischievous, uncharitable and untenable.
“The former minister broke no law, unless his traducers should point to the section of the Constitution that disenfranchises relations of ministers and other public office holders from privileges and opportunities open to other Nigerians.
“Again, we cannot forget so soon that not long ago, on his last day in office, a former FCT minister made allocations of about 3, 000 plots of land to the public, an action that was revoked by the Senate but restored by Senator Bala Mohammed who argued that the action of his predecessor was consistent with his powers.”
“On the bribery allegations, he said: “Nothing can be more spurious and stupid than the aspect of a report that the former minister demanded and received N1 billion on every land allocation in FCT. Pray, where are the allocations in question? What is the value of the land? Into which bank account did he deposit proceeds of the bribery?”
Meanwhile, on the specific reason for inviting Abati, the EFCC topshot said “it has to do with the ONSA money. I cannot give you details now. What I can only confirm to you is that he is here with us.”