South Africa Seizes Another $5.7m from Nigeria, ONSA Insists Arms Deal is Legit
The Asset Forfeiture Unit of the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) in South Africa has seized $5.7 million for yet another arms deal between South Africa and Nigeria, reported City Press, a Johannesburg-based newspaper.
This is the second multimillion-dollar arms deal between the two countries in the past month that has resulted in the money being frozen in South African banks.
However, the Office of the National Security Adviser (ONSA), in a statement yesterday trying to justify the large movement of cash across borders for the purchase of arms, said the transactions were legitimate.
The money was seized in both cases for allegedly being the proceeds of illegal transactions.
City Press’ sister paper Rapport has learnt that the department for offences against the state in the Special Investigating Unit is also involved.
Documents in the newspaper’s possession showed that the earlier consignment was approved by the Nigerian government – that the country’s National Security Adviser, Col Sambo Dasuki (rtd), personally issued the end-user certificate for the transaction.
An entire “shopping list” was supplied with the certificate, which included everything from helicopters to unmanned aircraft, rockets and ammunition.
Sources close to the investigation said the latest transaction was between Cerberus Risk Solutions, an arms broker in Cape Town, and Societe D’Equipments Internationaux, a Nigerian company in Abuja.
An impeccable source said this company paid the R60 million (N1.2 billion) into Cerberus’ account at Standard Bank.
Cerberus was previously registered as a broker with the National Conventional Arms Control Committee (NCACC), but the registration expired in May this year.
The marketing and contracting permits also expired at the same time.
The company has since applied for re-registration, but the application was in the NCACC’s mailbox for more than two months.
Sources told Rapport that Cerberus apparently tried to pay the money back to the Nigerian company, after which the bank became suspicious.
The NPA’s Asset Forfeiture Unit subsequently obtained a court order in the South Gauteng High Court to seize the money.
Cerberus’ attorney, Martin Hood, this week declined to comment on the matter.
NPA spokesperson Nathi Mncube said there were no indications that the two transactions were related.
“However, both are now the subject of a criminal investigation and all possible information and connections are being investigated,” said Mncube.
Last month, $9.3 million in $100 bills stashed in suitcases conveyed by two Nigerians and an Israeli, Eyal Mesika, in a private aircraft belonging to the President of the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN), Pastor Ayo Oritsejafor, was seized at Lanseria Airport, north of Johannesburg.
Oritsejafor said the plane had been leased to a third party and that he could not be blamed for its schedules.
The federal government later admitted it was behind the arms deal, claiming it was trying to procure arms in a secret deal to defeat the terrorist sect, Boko Haram.
A probe planned by the Senate into the transaction is ongoing while the House of Representatives threw out a motion seeking a probe.
At the time, the South Africa Revenue Service (SARS) said customs officers became suspicious when the passengers’ luggage were unloaded and put through the scanners.
Under South African laws, a person entering or leaving the country is expected to carry cash not exceeding $2,300, or the equivalent in foreign currency notes.
ONSA: Transaction is Legitimate
Nonetheless, ONSA in a statement issued yesterday by its media adviser, PRNigeria, said the transaction was legitimate, adding that the latest report by the South African media had vindicated the position that the cash-for-arms transaction was legitimate and was done with state approval.
ONSA however wondered why the South African authorities were blowing the issue out of proportion and making it look like an illegal deal.
“I don't know why South Africa is doing this to us. What do they want to achieve and stand to gain? Surely, if one reads the story very well, it is not hard to see that the whole transaction was legitimate and was done with banks and companies involved,” PRNigeria quoted an ONSA source as stating.
Also speaking on the latest cash seizure, PRNigeria said though it looks like an old story being refreshed for impact, the South African media had published documents confirming the legitimacy of the botched arms deals between Nigeria and South Africa.
“The reports by Rapport and City Press appear to finally vindicate the federal government’s official position that the transactions were legitimate as they confirmed that the end user certificates and a ‘shopping list’ accompanied the transactions as well as a note from Nigerian government authenticating the deals,” the media adviser said.
Also, a top security source in the intelligence service disclosed that "in issuing an end-user certificate, ONSA ensured that it carried all relevant agencies and stakeholders along. Therefore, such an undertaking was not unilateral.
“For security reasons, the chains leading to the issuance of end-user certificate cannot be put in the public domain.
“The recent interest in arms purchase was informed by the challenges of the insurgency which our nation has been grappling with in the last few years. This is why the understanding of all Nigerians is necessary.
“Nigeria is desperate to counter the activities of the terrorists no matter what it takes even when some of our friends are not being fair to us.
“The government appeals to the media and all Nigerians, especially the opposition, to consider the overall national interest on security issues. They should not read negative meanings to every good intention of government in tackling the insecurity in the country.”
Speaking further, the intelligence source was of the view that the mounting interest in Nigeria’s arms deals in the past few weeks appear to suggest that some vested interests do not want the nation to win the war against the terrorists.
He said: "Some fifth columnists are certainly at work to achieve a clandestine purpose.
The government and some top intelligence officers in Nigeria are concerned about how some officials of South Africa decided to frustrate the efforts of Nigeria at containing the activities of terrorists operating in the North-eastern axis, especially since authoritative sources confirmed that there was official communication at the top level between the two governments.
"Some diplomats in Nigeria are also concerned that despite the leeway given to South African companies to thrive in Nigeria, there are still officials of the country who are determined to frustrate Nigeria, which in April this year overtook South Africa as Africa’s largest economy.
The intelligence official maintained that the current story might just be a re-harsh of the old story with a new twist.
Similarly, the Special Assistant to the NSA, Mr. Adekunle Karounwi told THISDAY that there was nothing illegal about the controversial $5.7m cash-for-arms deal seized by the South African authorities.
Karounwi said the two companies involved are duly registered both in Nigeria and South Africa and the transactions done through a bank.
According to him, the problem only arose when the South African company could not fulfill its own part of the bargain with respect to the process of returning the money to Nigeria through the bank before it was impounded by the authorities.
“There is nothing illegitimate in that transaction. A company duly registered in Nigeria and another legitimate company in South Africa did a legitimate business with a recognised bank.
“The only problem was that the one in South Africa could not deliver on the job and tried to return the cash through a bank. Now how is that an illegal transaction?", he asked.
He added: "We have hosted South African companies like MTN, DSTV and others doing businesses in Nigeria through the same medium unmolested. So how come they are trying to ridicule the country like this?
"It is like some people are bent on embarrassing Nigeria at any slightest opportunity but the war against terror must be won.”
But as Nigerians came to terms with the bungling of another arms deal in South Africa, the war against terrorism in the North-east continued to rage with the killing of 100 members of Boko Haram by Nigerian troops and the liberation of Michika Local Government Area in Adamawa State at the weekend. Michika has been under the control of the insurgents for over a month.
A source in Michika said the victory recorded by the troops followed a fierce battle with the insurgents, but this time the Nigerian Armed Forces gained the upper hand in the fight to flush out the insurgents.
The source said the Nigerian troops entered Michika and took control of the local council following the defeat of the terrorists who were forced to beat a retreat.
“The Nigerian troops have gained entry into Michika and are now fully in control of the town having dealt a severe blow to the insurgents, as they lost about 100 members but some escaped with injuries sustained from gun shots,” the source said.
He said the fighting was still ongoing between Boko Haram members and Nigerian troops who have been intensifying efforts to reclaim more territories such as Madagali and Gulak which were captured by the insurgents in Adamawa northern zone.
He explained that the Nigerian troops were pushing the insurgents back and in the process several had been killed, and the troops were advancing towards Gulak.
He disclosed that the insurgents had tried to regroup which resulted in a fierce battle for the control of the communities in the area.
Also, a security source from the area said the troops had encountered stiff resistance from the insurgents as they advanced towards Gulak leading to the prolonged gun duel as many insurgents were deployed to counter the troops.
“There is a heavy fighting between the insurgents and Nigerian troops, but the troops are gaining the upper hand. However, many people who are trapped in the towns are now fleeing as a result of intensified fighting,” the source said.
The source explained that the insurgents who arrived in their thousands, came through Uba to counter the Nigeria troops.
However, there was suspicion that some saboteurs had leaked the operations of the Nigerian Armed Forces to the insurgents before they advanced on Michika.
“The gallant Nigerian soldiers were attacked from behind by the insurgents but the military men engaged them in fierce battle over five hours. How did they know that soldiers were advancing to fight them and even the route the soldiers followed for the operations? The soldiers need to fish out these saboteurs among them, if they want to completely wipe out Boko Haram insurgents in the country,” the security source said.
Attempts to get the official position of the military from the Public Relations Officer of the 23rd Army Brigade, Yola, proved abortive.
However, the Adamawa State acting Governor, Ahmadu Umaru Fintiri, yesterday commended the efforts of the Nigerian soldiers to liberate Michika and its environs.
The governor made his position known in a statement signed by his Chief Press Secretary Mr. Solomon Kumangar, stating that the news of the liberation of Michika and its environs had brought joy and commendation for the officers and men of the armed forces for their gallantry.
The governor said the Adamawa people would remain grateful to the Nigerian army and the president, adding that the triumph in “Michika affirmed the doggedness of our men and women in uniform whose service and sacrifice can never be forgotten”.
Troops Suffer Setback Near Mubi
However, Nigerian troops yesterday suffered a set back in the fight against the insurgents, with soldiers reportedly killed in Vimtim, a village close to Mubi town in Adamawa State.
An eyewitness said the insurgents ambushed the troops who were detailed to watch after the country home of the Chief of Defence Staff (CDS), Air Chief Marshall Alex Badeh, in the village.
He said a fierce battle ensued between the insurgents and the Nigerian troops for the control of Vimtim, adding that in the bid to capture the hometown of the CDS, the insurgents deployed many of their members against the soldiers.
The troops were able to regroup and were on top of the situation, he further disclosed.
However, owing to Mubi’s proximity to Vimtim, the commercial city was enveloped with fear. On sighting the fleeing soldiers, residents panicked and began to run for their dear lives.
The attack on Vimtim occurred less than 48 hours after the troops defeated the terrorists in Michika and forced others to flee.
But some 300 insurgents were said to have regrouped following the defeat they suffered in Michika and launched an offensive against the troops in Vimtim.
A source in Mubi said the some of the dead and injured soldiers were taken to the Mubi specialist hospital.
Another resident of Mubi said he was forced to flee the area as a result of the massive casualties recorded by the Nigerian troops, which forced many of them to retreat following the onslaught by Boko Haram.
The source added that the soldiers told him that several of their colleagues had been captured by the insurgents, while some dead soldiers who could not be evacuated from Vimtim were left behind.
Boko Haram Beheads Seven in Borno
In addition to their onslaught on Vimtim, Boko Haram militants also killed seven people yesterday in a town in Borno State, residents and an official said, with reports indicating that the victims were beheaded in a revenge attack. The overnight raid targeted the town of Ngamdu, reported AFP.
When locals woke they discovered “seven people had been brutally killed,” said resident Musa Abor.
The gunmen “slit their (victims) throats just the way people slaughter goats,” he added.
Abor and a Borno State official, who asked that his name be withheld, said the bodies had been decapitated, in the latest act of gruesome violence blamed on the Islamists who have killed more than 13,000 people since 2009.
In recent months, Boko Haram insurgents have launched reprisals at locals who have fought alongside the military as vigilantes.
An army officer in Borno, who also requested anonymity, said 15 Boko Haram fighters were killed in clashes in Ngamdu two weeks ago and the group had vowed revenge against the community.
Those killed yesterday could not immediately be identified as vigilantes and the Defence Ministry were not available to comment on the attack or the alleged beheadings.
Also, at least eight people were killed in Cameroun yesterday in a rocket attack blamed on the terrorist group, security officials said.
A police officer told AFP that Boko Haram militants fired the rocket from the Nigerian town of Banki which hit the town of Amchide in the far north of Cameroun.
“The rocket landed in Amchide, killing eight civilians and injuring many more. We fear that the number of dead will rise,” said the policeman, who asked not to be named.
A Camerounian security agent said the rocket landed on a road where many people were shopping.
Boko Haram took control of Banki several weeks ago and the militants have tried to make incursions across the border into Amchide.
The residents of Amchide have set up self-defence groups to fight off the Islamists.
Jonathan Heads for Niamey
Meanwhile, the president is scheduled to undertake a one-day official visit to Niamey, capital of Niger Republic, today to participate in an Extraordinary Summit of Heads of State and Government of the Lake Chad Basin Commission.
A statement yesterday from his media adviser, Dr. Reuben Abati, said Jonathan and other participating heads of state and government were expected to review ongoing collaboration against terrorism and agree on further joint actions to curb terrorism and the insurgency within and across their national boundaries.
Jonathan and the heads of state and government of the neighbouring countries of Niger, Chad, Cameroun and Benin Republic resolved at a meeting in Paris in May this year to intensify joint efforts to curtail terrorism and violent extremism.
At the Paris Summit hosted by President Francois Hollande of France in the aftermath of the dastardly abduction of the Chibok College girls, Jonathan and neighbouring heads of state and government also agreed to establish joint anti-terrorism patrols and a system of sharing intelligence to support operations against terrorists and other cross-border criminals.
They likewise agreed to create a dedicated team to draw up and advise on the implementation of a regional counter-terrorism strategy under the framework of the Lake Chad Basin Commission.
Benin Republic, which participated in the Paris Summit but is not a member of the Lake Chad Basin Commission, has been invited to the Niamey talks.
The Lake Chad Basin Commission was established in 1964 by Nigeria, Chad, Niger and Cameroun with the mandate of sustainably and equitably managing shared water resources of the Lake Chad Basin and promoting regional integration, peace and security across the basin.
Jonathan, who will be accompanied to Niamey by the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Ambassador Aminu Wali; Minister of State for Defence, Senator Musiliu Obanikoro; the CDS, and other senior government officials, will return to Abuja at the conclusion of the one-day summit.
Article Credit: Thisdaylive