By Alex Agbo in Abuja
Senate President Bukola Saraki has denied that he entered into a deal with former President Goodluck Jonathan over the allegedly missing $20 billion from the Federation Account.
After former CBN Governor and now Emir of Kano, Sanusi Lamido Sanusi, had opened the lid on the alleged missing money, the Senate had set up a committee to probe the missing fund.
The committee was headed by Senator Ahmed Makarfi from Kaduna and Saraki, among others, was a member.
Saraki said the impression created by Sahara Reporters that he cut a deal over the missing money was a figment of the online newspaper’s imagination.
He said he declined from signing the report of the Makarfi Committee which exonerated the NNPC over the missing money.
In a lengthy press statement issued by his Special Assistant on New Media, Bamikole Omishore, and made available to WESTERN POST, Saraki refuted Sahara Reporters’ story.
Omishore said in the statement: “Attention of the Senate President’s media office has been drawn to a malicious fabrication by an online publication, Sahara Reporters, aimed at tarnishing the reputation of the Senate President, Senator Abubakar Bukola Saraki. First, as a Senator in the 7th National Assembly, the Senate President Dr. Abubakar Bukola Saraki never signed the report of the Ahmed Makarfi-led Finance Committee’s investigation into the alleged Non-Remittance by NNPC of $20 billion into the federation account.
“In his letter dated 3rd of June, 2014 to the Committee withholding his signature, he said and I quote, ‘It is my opinion that this report, as laid, has not fully addressed the matter referred to us adequately and conclusively. The report has not been definitive on its findings and has failed to address some of the critical issues I had raised during our meetings. For this reason, I am withholding my support and signature.’
“The records of the committee are still accessible in the National Assembly and a copy is here attached. “Secondly, it is still on record that Senator Saraki is the only Senator in the committee that refused to sign the report even in the face of severe duress and personal inconvenience. Sen. Saraki during the investigation was known to have been very probing with his questions, meticulously reviewing the data offered by NNPC to get to the bottom of the issue.
“It would be recalled that though he did not make the last meeting of the committee, when the news broke that the Committee had cleared the NNPC, he was the first and the only senator to rebut the report, saying ‘the recent media reports claiming that the Senate Committee on Finance has cleared NNPC of any unaccounted revenue fund are not true… I have been very active in the investigation; nothing significant has changed to suggest clearing of anyone”. See Thisday Newspapers of the 29th of May 2014.
“The newspaper publication relating to this is all over the print and electronic media for all who want to find the truth. How is it then likely that he could have cut a deal with government on this matter and maintained such resolute stand? Only in the world of the fabricators of this report is this possible.
“Thirdly, it is evident that Senator Saraki’s commitment to see that the missing funds are found and paid back into the Federation Account was never in doubt from day one. It would be recalled that Senator Saraki, during this investigation, had gone out of his way to collaborate with the IHS Information Analytics Expertise and MJHC Limited London, two renowned international organisations with specialty on oil financials to do further forensic review on this matter also underscore the length at which he left no stone unturned to help the committee unravel the mystery surrounding the missing funds.
“Also, Sen. Saraki never met with Jonathan on this report (committee met last on the 16th of February 2014). So the thought of Senator Saraki working to bring down the number or amount unremitted with Goodluck Jonathan is completely false. For the avoidance of doubt, there has been no meeting of any type between Senator Saraki and former President Jonathan since the Senator left PDP.
“So any suggestion that ex-president Jonathan sent Chagoury to Senator Saraki with gifts /money to seek support from him on the report is totally false. Both the Sarakis and Chagourys have been family friends for over 26years.
“We hereby request the general public to disregard the antics of Sahara Reporters. We further call on Sahara Reports to immediately retract this offending publication and offer an unequivocal apology to His Excellency, Senator Saraki, the National Assembly and the citizenry of Nigeria for this unprovoked, reckless and mindless publication.
“The Media Office of the Senate President hereby uses this opportunity to put it on record that the posts by Sahara Reporters are completely false with no iota of truth whatsoever. We also challenge Sahara Reporters to either post facts or any documentation with proof or desist from misleading the reading public with dirty works of fiction apparently commissioned by some politicians in an attempt to destabilize the legislative arm of government and the country as a whole.
“It is obvious that Sahara Reporters in the last one month has no interest in other stories other than to fabricate fallacies and falsehood against the person of the Senate President and members of his family. While we are aware that the online publication is only doing the bidding of its sponsors and simply joining forces with political detractors who after failing to achieve their partisan aims believe that all is fair in war.
“We believe that journalism is a public trust and those who hold the trust should, even under extreme circumstance, refrain from abusing the trust. We therefore call on fellow citizens and all members of the international community to treat the Sahara Reporters’ publication as what they are: mere falsehood not to be accorded any measure of importance”.