The Presidency said, last night, that it would not interfere in the arrest and probe of a close associate of President Muhammadu Buhari, Jafaru Isah, by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission over alleged involvement in the Dasukigate scandal.
Mr. Isa, Military Administrator of Kaduna State from December 1993 to August 1996, during the military regime of General Sani Abacha and one-time governorship candidate of the defunct CPC in Kano State, is the first chieftain of the ruling All Progressives Congress, APC, to be arrested by the EFCC since the beginning of a sweeping probe into the alleged diversion of $2.1 billion meant for arms purchase by officials of the immediate-past administration.
An aide of the President told Vanguard in confidence that although Jafaru Isah was a close political ally to President Buhari, the first citizen would nonetheless remain neutral in the matter, in line with his avowed position to deal decisively with corruption.
While describing Isah as a political ally, who had been with Buhari from the days of the defunct All Nigeria Peoples Party, ANPP, to the Congress for Progressive Change, CPC, the aide made it clear that the long relationship did not in any way suggest that Buhari was associated with the alleged collection of N100 million from the Office of the National Adviser, ONSA, by the embattled politician.
The aid said: “It is true that Isah has been with Buhari from the days of the ANPP and CPC and was equally a member of the Transition Committee and actually headed the Defence Committee.
That does not mean that Buhari knows anything about the N100 million said to have been collected by the man from the ONSA.”
Jafaru is also described as a close friend of the embattled ex-NSA, Dasuki, who is facing multiple charges over alleged money laundering and breach of public trust in three courts.
It could not be established last night whether Jafaru was given the N100m by Dasuki for some contracts or because of his closeness to the former NSA or both.
Jafaru was arrested at his Abuja residence located on Ajayi Crowther Street, Asokoro by operatives of the anti-graft commission around 9pm on Wednesday when he failed to honour an invitation to clear the air on some payments traced to him from the ONSA.
Jafaru is said to have resorted to writing a letter to the commission asking for more time to attend to a family burial instead of reporting to the EFCC.
Rather than honouring the invitation, sources said he wrote a letter to the EFCC through his lawyer, seeking a postponement of his appearance date on the grounds of death of a relative.
Metuh spends 3rd night in EFCC cell
Meanwhile, there was no word on how soon the National Publicity Secretary of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, Chief Olisa Metuh, would be released.
Checks by Vanguard, last night, revealed that the EFCC, which arrested Metuh on Tuesday, was not in a hurry to free him. A source in the commission confirmed that Metuh was still being questioned by its operatives.
Release or charge our son to court, Metuh’s family tells FG
Four days after the arrest of Chief Olisa Metuh by officials of the EFCC, his family has cried out that he should be released or charged to court.
In a statement signed, yesterday, by Chief Gilbert Metuh for the Obi-Ezeani-Nnewi, the family said that the charges for which the PDP spokesman was arrested have not been made known to him, the family and the public. The family also raised alarm that it was worried about the health and safety of Metuh.
The family’s statement read in part: “Metuh family – the Obi-Ezeani-Nnewi- has noted with grave concern the continued incarceration of their Diokpa and spokesperson of the opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Chief Olisa Metuh (Ugochidebelu Nnewi) since his arrest Tuesday by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC).
“Whereas the charges for which Chief Metuh is being detained for over 48 hours now have not been formally made known to the family and the general public; we have noted some sensational publications in a section of the media claiming that our son collected the sum of N1.4 billion from the arms deal cash and has been collecting N4 million monthly from the Office of the former National Security Adviser.
“We have confronted our son with this allegation and he assured us that they are completely false.
“However, he acknowledged that in the course of his duties as the National Publicity Secretary of the PDP, the then leader of the party and President of the country directed him to carry out some urgent national assignment relating to his office, which the former President duly funded and which he duly carried out to the satisfaction of the former President.
“The family, therefore, views the publications bandying the figure of N1.4 billion and alleged collection of N4 million stipend from the Office of the NSA as deliberate blackmail aimed at inflaming public sentiments against our son.
“Our biggest concern for now is the health and safety of our son, who even before his arrest has alerted the nation about various threats to his life, a stance that is not unconnected to his position as the spokesperson of the opposition. Our position is more so as he has refused to eat following fears of intentions to poison him in detention.
“In view of the above therefore, we DEMAND that the EFCC immediately release our son, Chief Metuh (Ugochidebelu Nnewi) from detention or charge him to court.”
Also on Tuesday, the National leadership of PDP had warned that Metuh must not be killed by the government, using the arrest by EFCC as a vehicle, just as the party has demanded for an immediate release of Metuh.
In a statement by PDP National Secretary, Prof. Adewale Oladipo, the party noted that the arrest of Metuh by officials of the EFCC did not come as a surprise, just as it warned that his arrest would be the last straw that may break Nigeria’s democracy.
Oladipo’s statement read: “This development, which did not come to us as a surprise given series of threats to our party’s spokesman by the APC and the Federal Government, who are obviously not comfortable with our stance on the confused state of the nation under their watch, is a continuation of APC’s grand design to silence and decimate the PDP.
“The arrest of Chief Metuh today underscores the growing political intolerance in our country and the foisting of a police state which was last Wednesday underscored by the President and Commander-in-Chief himself, who defended why a government in a democracy should flout constitutional provision and brazenly disobey court orders.
“This onslaught against our spokesman, according to intelligence report available to us is part of a larger script by the government to ensure that PDP’s wings are finally clipped in their mission to install a dictatorial one-party state in the country.
“The excesses of security agencies under this government, especially the Department of State Services (DSS) and the EFCC, in abridging the human rights of PDP members have become worrisome and a threat to our democratic evolution.
“Nigerians and the international community will recall that on a number of occasions, the PDP, through its spokesman has been outspoken on some undemocratic proclivities being exhibited by the APC-led Federal Government in the last seven months.
“The PDP insists that for whatever reason Chief Metuh was arrested, his rights as a citizen under the law must not be trampled upon. We therefore demand his immediate release and that due process of investigation and prosecution concerning him should be strictly adhered to.”
“We state this because we have been made aware of top directives to break Chief Metuh and if possible poison him during his detention by the EFCC. Chief Metuh, has since his arrest at about 10 am, has been kept incommunicado, with his lawyers denied access to him.
“The PDP declares the arrest of our spokesman as the last straw that may break our democracy. We therefore forewarn the Federal Government and its agencies to save our democracy and forthwith release our National Publicity Secretary.
“We are also calling on the international community and well-meaning Nigerians to stand up for this democracy, which our party nurtured for 16 years and deepened to a level where the opposition, for the first time in our political history, had the opportunity to win in a general election.”