- Secondus sues Lai Mohammed, demands N1.5bn damages
As controversy continues to trail the release of looters’ list by the Federal Government in the last one week, there are strong indications that government is compiling fresh names of people alleged to have looted the nation’s treasury.
Our correspondents learnt that the fresh list might contain names of those who have yet to be arraigned in courts for corruption.
The list may also include names of former governors, ministers and even bankers.
The Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, had in the past said 55 persons stole N1.34tn under the administration of former President Goodluck Jonathan. Last week, he released 29 names, who he said took money from the office of the former National Security Adviser, Col. Sabo Dasuki (retd.).
Many of the names he released were, however, those already undergoing trial for alleged corruption while the names of members of the former ruling party, the Peoples Democratic Party, who had defected to the ruling All Progressives Congress were conspicuously omitted from the list.
The two lists contained names of those in the main opposition party, the PDP. The PDP had subsequently criticised the government, accusing it of being biased and diverting attention from its alleged incompetence.
But a source close to the Presidency, who spoke on condition of anonymity, told one of our correspondents in Abuja on Friday, that the government, through the Ministry of Information and Culture, would soon release another list.
He said that the next batch would be more comprehensive and would contain the names of those who either took money from the office of the former NSA or directly from the Federal Government before the 2015 elections.
He said the government was aware of the controversy that surrounded the release of the first two lists, adding that the names of some persons considered to be close to the government could be in the third list.
The source said, “Between you and me, I can authoritatively tell you that we are compiling a fresh list. We won’t release it until we are satisfied with it. We want to be thorough. People will be shocked when we release the fresh names.
“Those who accused us of being biased will know that we know what we are doing. The first list was a fraction. When the second one came out, people were surprised. As for the next one, people will be shocked. I won’t say more than that.”
Efforts made to reach Mohammed on the issue were unsuccessful as calls made to his mobile phone indicated that it was switched off.
Our list includes former governors, ministers, bankers –Sagay
However, the Chairman of the Presidential Advisory Committee Against Corruption, Prof. Itse Sagay (SAN), in an interview with Saturday PUNCH confirmed that the names of 55 persons that allegedly looted N1.34tn under Jonathan’s regime were not in the lists of looters released by the Federal Government.
He said he was very sure that the Federal Government would publish the names of these alleged looters. He said, “Yes, I’m sure. In fact, there is a paper containing all their names, the charges against them, how far their cases have gone, some of them have never been charged.
“That list includes former governors, ministers, bankers and so on. That is another list entirely.”
He, however, refused to mention any of the names on the list, saying, “No, I don’t want to mention any names for now. There are people on that list that the court declared that the EFCC (Economic and Financial Crimes Commission) had no right to prosecute for technical reasons, not for substantive reasons.”
Secondus sues Lai Mohammed, demands N1.5bn damages
Meanwhile, the National Chairman of the PDP, Prince Uche Secondus, has dragged Mohammed to court for defamation of character.
Mohammed had on Friday, last week, identified Secondus as one of those who looted the nation’s treasury in the first list.
He alleged that Secondus collected N200m from Dasuki, an allegation that was denied by Secondus, who said he was embarrassed by the minister’s claim.
He claimed through a letter from his lawyer, Mr. Emeka Etiaba (SAN ), that he did not collect money and asked the minister to retract his statement. He also asked for the payment of N1.5bn as damages and a public apology within 48 hours.
The letter told Mohammed to note that if he failed to meet their demand after 48 hours, “We shall within 72 hours from today, proceed to a court of competent jurisdiction to ventilate our client’s rights under the law and shall further seek the protection of the court against you.”
Having failed to meet the demand, Secondus on Friday, made good his threat and filed a suit at the High Court, Port Harcourt, Rivers State, asking the court to award the sum of N1.5bn to him as damages for humiliation, castigation, vilification attack on his person and integrity as a result of the publication.
According to a statement by the PDP National Chairman’s Media Office, which was signed by his spokesperson, Mr. Ike Abonyi, Secondus, in the suit numbered: /PHC/1013/2018, is also claiming that Mohammed’s publication is defamatory.
He, therefore, asked the court to direct Mohammed to retract the said publication and apologise to him in writing.
He asked the court to compel the minister to publish the retraction and apology in the Nation, This Day, The Sun, The Guardian and The PUNCH as well as on television stations like Nigerian Television Authority and Channels TV, among others, where the “defamatory” report was published.
Secondus is also asking the court for a perpetual injunction restraining the defendant from further publishing defamatory materials against him.
Joined in the suit are the Federal Government of Nigeria through the Attorney General of the Federation and the Vintage Press Limited, publishers of The Nation Newspapers.
Also included in Mohammed’s first list were a former PDP National Publicity Secretary, Olisah Metuh, who is on trial for allegedly collecting N1.4bn from NSA office; Dr. Raymond Dokpesi, who is on trial for taking N2.1bn from NSA office; and a former Senior Special Adviser to President Jonathan, Dudafa Waripamo-Owei, who is on trial over N830m kept in accounts of four different companies
In the second list, the minister said based on EFCC’s investigation, N126bn, $1.5bn and £5.5m were allegedly embezzled through Dasuki’s office. He said the amounts were not part of the ongoing $2.1bn military equipment scandal.