*Says ex-VP has questions to answer when he returns from US
By Omololu Ogunmade in Abuja
Twenty-four hours after former Vice President Atiku Abubakar and Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) presidential candidate arrived the United States, the federal government Friday in Abuja accused him of N156 million fraud.
Atiku’s current visit to the United States, the first in 12 years because he was denied visa by US, obviously did not go down well with the government of the All Progressives Congress (APC).
Briefing journalists in the State House, the Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, said the former vice president had questions to answer on issues leading to the collapse of Bank PHB.
According to Mohammed, the PDP presidential candidate benefited from N156 million ‘slush funds’ through what he described as Claremont Management Services Account on January 13, 2009.
The minister who claimed that the federal government was not bothered by Atiku’s visit to the United States, said “If he likes, he can stay there and obtain the American Green Card.”
Tasking Atiku to explain his involvement in both the alleged ‘slush funds’ as well as the collapse of Bank PHB, Mohammed said the PDP presidential hopeful should return to the country and explain his roles in the bankruptcy of Bank PHB now Key Stone Bank.
Days before Atiku’s trip to the United States, Mohammed had expressed concern over plans by the American government to issue him a visa, arguing that granting a visa to Atiku whom he said had not been to the US in the past 12 years, would amount to endorsing him for the 2019 general election.
He said: “I have come to make few remarks about the recent visit of the presidential candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party to the US. You can recall that few weeks ago, I did issue a statement advising the US government not to issue visa to Atiku.
“Remember also that in that same press conference, I also stated that it remained the prerogative of the US government to issue visa to anyone it deems fit. Let me say right away that we are not perturbed one bit that Alhaji Atiku Abukakar was able to secure visa to the US. As a matter of fact, he can go ahead and get the US Green card that will not save him from imminent defeat in the forthcoming election.
“I want to remind Abubakar that the elections will be right here in Nigeria and not in the US. In any event, any time Abubakar returns home, he has questions to answer following the fresh evidence that we have that he benefitted from slush funds that led to the collapse of the former Bank PHB.
“The document we have shows that he benefitted to the tune of N156 million from that slush fund. The paper which we have here started from an internal memo on the January 13, 2009, which reads: ‘please refer for discussion your requested overdraft in favour of Atiku Abubakar for N156 million and deliver same to me. Please note that it must be delivered today (January 13) on the same date”
Furthermore, Mohammed stated that another memo was raised to confirm the receipt of the alleged ‘slush fund,’ saying the government does not only have evidence of the account statement and mandate but also a copy of the cheque issued to Atiku.
He said, “We have evidence here of the account mandate — the name of Atiku Abubakar. We also have a copy of the cheque in which the sum of N156 million was issued to Atiku Abubakar dated Jan. 13, 2009. And of course, we also have statement of account within that period that confirms that this sum was actually paid into his account.
“These are fresh evidences as to his involvement in the collapse of Bank PHB. So, we want him to stay as long he wants in the US but as soon he comes back, he has to explain to the electorate and to Nigerians what was his role in the collapse in the former Bank PHB.”
Asked why the federal government seemed aggrieved by Atiku’s visit to the US, Mohammed reiterated: “He can go ahead and get the US Green card. Any time he comes back, he has questions to answer.”
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