Three weeks after South Africa confiscated $9.3m belonging to the Federal Government over an alleged illegal arms deal, the South African authorities have seized another $5.7m arms money from Nigeria.
Last month, two Nigerians and an Israeli were arrested at Lanseria International Airport, Johannesburg, after they attempted to smuggle $9.3m to South
Africa which the Federal Government described as a legitimate business deal to purchase arms for the Nigerian intelligence services.
This is just as a statement by PR Nigeria on behalf of the Nigerian government said the report by the South African newspaper, City Press on the latest transaction has vindicated the Federal Government’s official position that the deal was legitimate.
Despite explanations by Nigeria, the Asset Forfeiture Unit of the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) of South Africa obtained a court order to freeze the money for allegedly being the proceeds of illegal transactions.
The latest transaction, according to a South African newspaper, City Press was between Cerberus Risk Solutions, an arms broker in Cape Town, and Societe D’Equipments Internationaux, a Nigerian company in Abuja.
The paper reported that the deal fell apart after Cerberus which had earlier received R60 million (N1.02 billion) from Nigeria in its account at Standard Bank, attempted to pay back the money because it could not resolve its registration formalities with the South African authorities.
According to the paper, 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 was said to have since applied for re-registration, but the application was yet to be granted and had been in the NCACC’s mailbox for more than two months.
Following attempts by Cerberus to pay the money back to the Nigerian company, 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, was said to have declined to comment on the matter.
In the first arms deal, the two Nigerians and the Israeli national, Eyal Mesika were arrested after they failed to declare two black plastic suitcases, filled with 90 blocks each containing US$100,000 in notes, with combination locks, as well as two pieces of hand luggage also containing US currency, according to City Press. The Israeli, Eyal Mesika, had the combination to open the locks. The men landed at Lanseria International Airport, Johannesburg, on September 5 in a private jet from Abuja.
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.
The National Prosecuting Authority, NPA, in South Africa said there was an invoice for helicopters and armaments intended to be used in Nigeria.
Under South African laws, a person entering or leaving the country is expected to carry cash not exceeding US$2,300, or the equivalent in foreign currency notes. The Nigerian government later admitted it was behind the deal meant to purchase arms with which to fight Boko Haram.
The South African paper said documents in its possession show that the first consignment was personally signed off by the National Security Adviser, Sambo Dasuki, who 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, it said.
NPA spokesperson Nathi Ncube said there were no indications that the two transactions were related, adding that, “both are now the subject of a criminal investigation and all possible information and connections are being investigated”.
South Africa frustrating Nigeria
Meanwhile, the Federal Government as well as top officers of security agencies in the country were worried about the increasing trend by South African authorities to frustrate efforts by Nigeria to acquire weaponry and equipment needed to contain the deadly Boko Haram terrorism in North Eastern Nigeria.
This concern came as South African media have published documents confirming the legitimacy of the $9. 3million botched arms deals between Nigeria and the former apartheid enclave.
According to sources, government is particularly concerned that South Africa has remained recalcitrant even after authoritative sources confirmed that there were official communications at the top level of the two governments and the South African media have published documents confirming the legitimacy of the botched arms deals.
According to a statement by PR Nigeria, “Reports by Rapport and City Press appeared to finally vindicate Federal Government’s official position that the transactions were legitimate as they confirmed that contrary to insinuations, end user certificates and a ‘shopping’ list accompanied the transactions as well as a note from Nigerian government authenticating the deals”.
The reports cited documents showing that the earlier consignment was approved by the Nigerian government through the Office of the National Security Adviser (ONSA) which is officially mandated to issue the end-user certificate for such transactions that involved security agencies in Nigeria.
An entire “shopping list” was also said to have been supplied with the certificate, which included everything from helicopters to unmanned aircraft, rockets and ammunition.
A top security source in the intelligence service disclosed that “in issuing end-user certificate, the ONSA ensures that it carries all relevant agencies and stakeholders along. Therefore, such a responsibility is not a unilateral development.
The source said: “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 insurgency which our nation had been grappling with in the last few years. This is why the understanding of all Nigerians is necessary.
“Nigeria is desperate to counter activities of terrorists no matter what it takes even when some of our friends are not being fair to us.
Reactions have trailed the latest arms deal gone sour between Nigeria and South Africa.
This is the most corrupt govt in Nigeria —APC
The Publicity Secretary of the All Progressives Congress, APC, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, while reacting to the latest arms deal saga said: “This is a government of scandals. While they are trying to battle with one scandal another one has just come up. It shows lack of transparency in government. It is a government of corruption. Where is the money from? Who appropriated the money? If arms and ammunition are to be bought, why must they not follow the legal procedure? We don’t even know how many of this kind of transactions have been carried out unnoticed. It is sad. Yet they talk about transparency and fight against corruption.”
“This government has turned out to be the most corrupt government in the history of this country. There was also another disclosure by Italian prosecutors about Malabo deal. It said that about $533million was shared in bribes. And the money was paid to the Federal Government. We are yet to comment on that. Before then we had the subsidy scan and no one has been convicted. The government is truly swimming inside corruption.”
It’s an embarrassment to Nigeria—Afenifere
Pan-Yoruba socio-political organisation, Afenifere, described the latest seizure as an embarrassment to Nigeria.
Afenifere’s National Publicity Secretary, Mr Yinka Odumakin said: “We need to know who is behind it. It is an embarrassment for the country that another money is being seized by the South African authorities. We need a proper verification to ascertain those who are behind it. Also, those who are behind it should be brought to book to serve as a ground rule.”
I’m not surprised—Fasehun
Also speaking, founder of the Oodua Peoples Congress (OPC), Dr Fredrick Fasehun said he was not surprised at the latest development.
Fasehun told Vanguard that “I am not surprised that Nigeria is becoming a country that is unable to control its treasury. Looters are looting everyday with impunity. Any country that has impunity as one of its principles will not be able to keep its treasury intact. So, I am not surprised that various people are looting the treasury and stealing our common wealth”.