Protesting Ijaw youths yesterday accused President Muhammadu Buhari of secretly giving the order for the bank accounts of former President Goodluck Jonathan to be frozen, alleging that the order was indicative of his “vindictiveness” towards the former first family.
The irate youths under the Ijaw Youth Council (IYC), who blocked the Sanni Abacha expressway in Yenagoa, Bayelsa State, said it was disturbing that of all the former leaders, only Jonathan and his wife, Patience, were being “hounded” by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC).
Their allegation collaborates information reaching THISDAY recently that the action by the EFCC has made it difficult for the ex-president to meet some of his pressing obligations and is now dependent on friends and associates to help him pay some of his bills.
However the presidency dismissed the allegation by the youths that Buhari had issued the directive to freeze the accounts of Jonathan, saying it was a fabricated accusation.
The youths alleged that Jonathan’s account had been frozen, his allowances withdrawn and his security personnel starved of payments by the federal government.
“This country has produced many presidents, but the only one from the Niger Delta is constantly harassed by the machinery of state, especially the EFCC.
“We want to call on the president to please respect former President Jonathan, at least for the fact that he brought peace to this country, handed over peacefully to him. He didn’t go to court. He allowed him to run this country.
“President Buhari should please focus on leadership and stop vilifying the former first family,” Udengs Eradiri, the factional president of the IYC who led the protest said.
Many of the demonstrators displayed Ijaw flags and placards with inscriptions such as “Leave Patience Jonathan alone”, “LNG must be bought by Bonny people”, “If you must probe, all first ladies must be probed”, “We need projects not soldiers”, “Unfreeze Jonathan’s accounts”.
While speaking during the protest, Eradiri added, “We appeal to Buhari to respect Jonathan the way he respects other past presidents.
“They have frozen his account; they are not paying his allowances. Even the security agents around him do not get what is due to them. Why is the Presidency victimising Goodluck Jonathan?
“Patience Jonathan is not the only first lady in this country. A wife to a former deputy governor, governor, vice-president and president, are you expecting her to be a poor woman? There are other first ladies in this country.
“In recent times, a former first lady was awarded a university license. So, we are using this medium to send a message, leave our first family alone. Some people are not happy about Jonathan’s rising profile and they want to destroy it.”
The Ijaw youth leader also called for the resumption of work at the Maritime University, Delta State, noting that the Buhari’s aides were misreading his “body language”.
However, Mr. Elvis Donkemezuo, leader of another faction of the IYC distanced his group from the protest, describing it as “shameless”.
“We, the executives and members of the Ijaw Youth Council (IYC) worldwide write to distance ourselves and to unequivocally condemn the shameless and most disgraceful protests staged earlier today (Thursday) in Yenagoa, Bayelsa State.
“It was carried out by some paid political jobbers led by the embattled former interim president of the IYC, Udengs Eradiri against the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC).
“While we would not in any way countenance the use of our anti-graft agencies or any other institutions of the state to unjustly persecute anyone, we, the IYC under the able leadership of Elvis Donkemezuo find it quite appalling that any reasonable Nigerian or Ijaw person would march on the streets of any city to pressure the EFCC to abandon any of its ongoing investigations against anyone, no matter how highly placed.
“For the record, our mother, the former first lady, Patience Jonathan, is not the only Nigerian or Ijaw person under EFCC investigation.
“So we find it quite curious and to say the least disturbing that these profiteers are trying to surreptitiously drag the good name of the IYC that has been built and earned over many years with the sacrifice of many Ijaw patriots, into this ignominious affair.
“We therefore call on all Nigerians and most especially the media to totally disregard these latest shenanigans of Udengs Eradiri and his co-travellers who have only helped in vindicating our position that they are only influenced and driven by pecuniary gains,” he said.
Also reacting to the allegation made by the faction of the IYC, the president’s media aide, Mr. Garba Shehu said it was not possible for Buhari to have given the directive for the bank of accounts of the former president to be frozen.
Speaking to THISDAY yesterday, Shehu said: “Claims by the demonstrators that allowances have been stopped and accounts were frozen are patently untrue.
“Checks with the Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF) and the investigation agencies show clearly that the former the president and the other past leaders were paid their allowances up to the second quarter of this year.
“Dr. Jonathan along with the others have not, however been paid their allowances due in third quarter but will get their dues when remittances are received by the SGF from the Ministry of Finance.
“The story of account closure is a fairy tale. It is not known to the investigation agencies.
“To put it starkly, we believe there is clear motive for the demonstration, different and far removed from that which is being claimed.
“This is a premeditated and unabashed attempt to blame the president for something he knows nothing about. These claims are false and poorly sourced to present a picture of vendetta against a fair and a just president.”