Omololu Ogunmade in Abuja and Olaseni Durojaiye in Lagos
The presidency last night reacted with dismay to an allegation published by a national daily that Chief of Staff to the President, Malam Abba Kyari, collected N29 million bribe for the award of a contract for the supply of 15 Hilux vehicles. Reacting to the allegation in a statement, presidential spokesman, Malam Garba Shehu, described the allegation as offensive, saying Kyari never had any private meeting with those making the allegation.
Shehu said the allegation appeared to be coming from certain persons whose interest was to blackmail the administration of President Muhammadu Buhari as 2019 drew closer.
In his own reaction, Kyari stated, “There is no iota of truth whatsoever, even in dreamland, in this malicious story. No amount of mud will stick, or stain my integrity. I have instructed my lawyers to take legal action against all those who have peddled this falsehood.
“We cannot allow reasoned and reasonable debate to be hijacked by the frenzied fantasies of a cynical and dishonest minority. A lie becomes no less of a lie simply by repetition. I will continue to ensure that business-as-usual is unsustainable, ask questions and question answers – in the interest of our country, above any other consideration.”
Shehu also described the allegation as a fiction, saying the contract did not exist in 2016/2017 budgets.
Arguing that N29 million bribe allegation against a man who turned down N200 million imprest accrued to the office in the past was misplaced, Shehu cautioned the media against hastening to the press without verification and threatened the newspaper with legal action.
He stated, “The Presidency takes strong offence to the improbable and outlandish publication by a Newspaper on Saturday (not THISDAY) and reports that circulated in Whatsapp in a dig at presidential aide Abba Kyari who was alleged to have collected a 29 million naira bribe for the awarding of a contract.
“We wish to state with full authority that the allegation is wrong and the Chief of Staff did not have any private meetings with the person making those allegations.
“What is even more surprising is the decision by the newspaper to run the cooked up lies despite obvious loopholes in the story, such as the Bureau of Public Procurement’s denial that a major source for the story was a member of their staff.
“With a slew of crucial elections ahead, some politicians and their media agents appear to be working together to build pressure on the Buhari administration by wielding non-existent scandals against it.
“We equally note that the supply of 15 Hilux vehicles for the Presidency was an unlikely contract to have been awarded, as it did not exist anywhere in the 2016 and 2017 budgets.
“Checking the appropriation for 2016 and 2017, that request is not even there. How could Abba Kyari have asked for money to award a contract that did not exist anywhere at all?
“In addition to that, the amount allegedly given in bribe was also suspicious, as the office of the presidential aide had been known in the past to receive imprest of 200 million naira and above every month, with no one expected to give account.
“It was only since Abba Kyari occupied that position that things changed. In blunt terms, it is difficult to make a case of N29 million bribery against an official who spurned a monthly payment of N200 million to his office, money for which he didn’t need to account to anyone.
“Once again, we wish to caution against the media’s haste to publish unverified accusations against government officials simply for the sensationalism value, without journalists doing the due diligence required of them by their profession.
“The newspaper was notified of the various falsehoods contained in the allegations but still went ahead to publish the weak accusations. They should be prepared to face Abba Kyari in court.”