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Obasanjo breaks silence on Andy Uba

Posted by By Our correspondent on 2006/11/14 | Views: 2206 |

Obasanjo breaks silence on Andy Uba


President Olusegun Obasanjo on Monday broke his silence on the alleged smuggling of $170,000 to the United States by his former Senior Special Asistant on Domestic Affairs, Dr. Andy Uba.

President Olusegun Obasanjo on Monday broke his silence on the alleged smuggling of $170,000 to the United States by his former Senior Special Asistant on Domestic Affairs, Dr. Andy Uba.

He said the ploy to link him with the scandal was a calculated attempt to tarnish his image.

The President, who spoke through his United States-based counsel, Mr. Kunle Fagbenle, vowed to explore all means to seek legal redress.

A US District Court in Portland, Oregon had seized the money allegedly laundered by Uba.

The seizure followed the discovery by a US special agent that the $170,000 was smuggled into New York on September 22, 2003 by Uba, aboard a Nigerian presidential plane.

Uba was said to have handed over the money to one Loretta Mabinton.

Mabinton had confessed to US law enforcement agents that she flew to New York on September 22, 2003 and received the $170,000 from Uba.

She said Uba was then at the United Nations Plaza Hotel as a member of the President’s entourage to a meeting at the UN headquarters.

Apart from the allegation against the former presidential aide, a curious aspect of the scandal was the fact that part of the controversial fund was used to buy equipment for Obasanjo Farms Limited in Ota, Ogun State.

The US secret service report indicated that a portion of the money, $45,487.28 (about N6.5m), was used to pay Mabinton’s MBNA credit card account, which was deployed in purchasing assorted equipment for the farms.

The connection of Obasanjo Farms with the scandal caused ripples in Nigeria and abroad.

Many Internet sites were said to be feeding fat on the scam in relation to Obasanjo’s commitment to anti-corruption crusade.

But Fagbenle said, “The President thinks nothing of the whole thing, but he sees it as a calculated attempt to tarnish his good name.

“There is absolutely no credence to the fictive and sensational allegations or to the suggestive complicity of our client or his private farms in any unlawful conduct as alleged.

”There was no illegality on the part of the President.

Fagbenle castigated the reports as a ”desperate attempt to falsely cast and expose Obasanjo to public scorn, distrust and dishonour.

“Obasanjo will vehemently and vigorously pursue all civil legal remedies available to him.”

On the purchase of the farm equipment, the lawyer said Obasanjo merely “joked” about it.

Fagbenle, who is the President‘s International Legal Counsel on Personal Matters, explained that the farm equipment was “unsolicited.”

His response was also a confirmation that the President‘s farm actually received the equipment from Uba.

Fagbenle, in an exclusive chat with Empowered newswire added that the President could not understand how a farm equipment worth about $45,000 could matter so much to his farm where millions had been spent.

He said the money used to purchase the equipment was not part of the smuggled cash, but that it was a credit card that was used.

But the complaints from the US government stated that part of the proceeds of the $170,000 was used to make the farm equipment purchase.

Fagbenle, however, said, “Uba who made the purchase was already a wealthy man who happened to be the President‘s assistant.”

He disclosed that Obasanjo believed and stated that the whole incident with the media focus was like making a mountain out of a mole hill.

Asked whether Obasanjo was prepared to sue an Internet site, Fagbenle said Obasanjo was keeping his options open, including legal action.

However, another US based Nigerian lawyer Kayode Oladele spoke in defence of the websites, especially SaharaReporters, which Obasanjo‘s lawyer specified.

In a letter to Obasanjo’s counsel, Oladele said, “While you have done so much to defend the integrity and interest of your client in his personal capacity, you fail to realise or at least, take cognisance of the fact, that Obasanjo is a public officer whose actions and or inactions would continue to attract public interest.”

Oladele, who is also the lawyer arguing the case against a former Head of State, Gen. Abdusalami Abubakar, in a human rights violation matter in Chicago, advised Obasanjo against a “wild goose chase.”

“The President must avoid a situation that may make him vulnerable to various counter claims and damages,” he said.

Oladele also advised Fagbenle to “confer with Obasanjo with a view to obtaining further information from him on whether he would be willing to renounce and surrender the immunity conferred on him by the Nigerian Constitution as the President and Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Nigerian Armed Forces.”

In his reaction, another US-based lawyer, Emeka Ugwuonye, also issued a public letter to Fagbenle.

He said it was curious that Fagbenle, who is currently engaged in a case against Nigeria Airways and the Federal Government, could also now take the brief from Obasanjo, the head of the Gederal Government he (Fagbenle) was suing in the other suit.

Ugwuonye is the government‘s lawyer in Nigeria Airways case, while Fagbenle is arguing against the government and the defunct Airways in a New York court.

Ugwuonye, who is also Abubakar‘s lawyer in the US, wants Fagbenle to clarify his stance as Obasanjo‘s lawyer.

He said in the Airways case, Fagbenle had alleged, “That the government of Nigeria under this President was involved in racketeering activities.”

The lawyer added, “Fagbenle had argued that the Government of Nigeria had engaged in various acts of torture, in violation of the law of nations. You filed your case against Nigeria partly under the Alien Torts Claims Act.

“You (Fagbenle) must understand these were very serious claims and allegations that you have made against the Government of Nigeria and the administration of Obasanjo.

“Since the past two months, we have been mediating this case with a view to settling it.

“During the mediation process, you have repeatedly accused the Obasanjo administration of gross violations of rights.”

Ugwuonye said he was therefore troubled at Fagbenle‘s emergence as Obasanjo‘s lawyer.

“Now, I am puzzled to learn that you are holding yourself out as the personal attorney on a global matter for the President of Nigeria, even at the same time as you are making global claims against the government led by the President.”

In his response, however, Fagbenle dismissed such concerns.

He said if any ethical questions arose from his action, such questions should be addressed by reviewing ” the Rules of Professional Conduct.”

He said, “My client is represented in his personal capacity, and not in his governmental capacity as President.

“Further, he is not a party to the Nigeria Airways case-whether personally or in his official capacity.

Fagbenle said Ugwuonye‘s reaction and claims were ”disingenuous.”

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Comments (3)

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Abieyuwa(Edo, Nigeria)says...

Otasowie means evening life is better than morning life. There is an error in your “evening life is better than evening life”?

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Naija g(Houston, Minnesota, US)says...

Sokari doesn’t mean joy. Joy is Biobela. Go to the village and ask the meaning of the name.

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Fay(Katy, Texas, US)says...

Actually translates to bravehearted.