In this interview with ENIOLA AKINKUOTU, an aide to detained Senator Shehu Sani, Suleiman Ahmed, speaks about the travails of his principal
Your boss, Senator Shehu Sani, has been in the custody of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission for two weeks, based on allegations that he received money from someone in order to bribe the acting EFCC Chairman, Ibrahim Magu
(Cuts in) Actually there was an issue between Senator Shehu Sani and a businessman, Sani Dauda, who is the owner of ASD (Alhaj Sani Dauda) Motors. He is a major dealer in Peugeot vehicles. In November, he had a legal tussle with his in-law. So, he was detained and released. Then Senator Sani paid him a courtesy visit at his residence.
As Dauda was seeing off the visitor, he observed that the senator had come in an old Peugeot car. Then he told Sani that he had some of the current Peugeot models for sale and asked him to purchase the car.
Sani responded jokingly by saying the current model of the car was too expensive for him. Dauda gave the senator the option of paying in instalments because of their relationship. The senator later visited Dauda in his office in Kaduna and deposited $13, 000 and later $11, 000, making a total of $24, 000.
After receiving the payment, Dauda issued the senator with an invoice. The total cost of the car is N17, 500,000. He gave the senator a GTB account number and told him to make subsequent deposits into that account and Sani left.
How did the EFCC get involved in the matter?
A few days later, Senator Sani received an invitation letter from the EFCC, asking him to come on Thursday, January 2, 2020. However, the senator decided to honour the invitation on December 31, 2019, which was two days before schedule. He was not even arrested, as reported in the media, but went there willingly.
I accompanied him on the trip to the EFCC. I did not know why he was invited. He was given a sheet of paper and asked to write a statement in response to some allegations levelled against him.
The EFFC officials alleged that some money was given to him in order to bribe the acting Chairman of the commission, Ibrahim Magu. Initially, they mentioned $10,000 and later, said it was $20, 000. We don’t know the exact sum of money involved. But Sani explained that he was the one who gave money to Dauda.
After the clarification, the senator was informed that he would need a surety to take his bail and he was given a bail bond. The condition was that he should produce two sureties who must be at least directors in the federal civil service. This was around 11pm and it was not possible for him to produce any director. So, he was detained pending his ability to meet bail conditions.
The next day, January 1, 2020, was a public holiday, but we were able to get two directors. However, the EFCC did not release him since it was a public holiday. The second day, the senator was transferred from the holding facility to the EFCC headquarters. The complainant, Dauda, was also brought to the EFCC head office so that he and the senator could meet face to face.
It was at that point that we began to understand some new details. Dauda said he wasn’t the one that wrote the petition, but his son did. He said he did not know how to read or write.
Dauda also said he had spoken with Isa Funtua, a close friend of the President. He said he called Funtua to inform him that his son had written a petition to the EFCC in which Shehu Sani was wrongly implicated and that Funtua should intervene in the matter. These details were in his statement.
Has Isa Funtua been invited to clear the air?
It is the responsibility of the EFCC to invite him because his name appeared. They should invite him, the way Shehu Sani was invited. Are they afraid to do so because he is a member of the cabal? Are they afraid that if he speaks, he could vindicate Senator Sani? So, they may deliberately decide not to invite him.
How did the allegation that Senator Sani attempted to bribe the Chief Justice of Nigeria come up?
When Dauda was asked what the money was for, he said it was meant for bribing Magu. But when he was told that he had no case with the EFCC, he said the money was meant for bribing the CJN to influence the case between himself and his in-law. Again, they asked him if he had any case before the Supreme Court, but he said no.
Having a case in court does not necessarily mean that it is at the level of the Supreme Court. Instead of granting the senator bail when it was established that there was no case, we suddenly heard that the EFCC had obtained a court order to detain him for two weeks for investigation. One curious thing about the court order was that we were not informed of the development. Even our lawyer was not informed.
Do you think the arrest is politically motivated?
Yes, I do. A week before his arrest, Senator Sani said on social media that from the look of things, what the government was saying, as regards poverty alleviation, was that if the Buhari government remained in power for 50 years, it still would not be able to lift Nigerians out of poverty.
Also, Sani has consistently criticised the government and some of its unhealthy programmes. His criticism of government is based on facts and not politics. So, we feel that some government agencies see this as an avenue to settle old scores. If not, how can you detain someone who allegedly collected money in order to bribe another person, while the person who actually admitted to giving the bribe is walking free? Why not charge both of them to court? Why search his house and offices? Why freeze his accounts?
Why were his accounts frozen?
It’s because they have not been able to establish a case against him that they are now fishing for new evidence that doesn’t exist. Senator Sani has an invoice from Dauda and his bank account, which shows that there was a genuine transaction.
Are you saying Senator Sani has never committed fraud before?
He was in the Senate for four years and that is the only public office he has ever held. He served in sensitive committees where he could have easily received bribes if he wanted. He was chairman of the committee on foreign debt and he served on the ad hoc committee to investigate the SGF, Babachir Lawal. So, if he was corrupt, he would have compromised, but he never did.
Why did he reject the EFCC’s lie detector test?
He refused two things the EFCC tried to do. He rejected the lie detector test and he also refused to hold the EFCC board, which some suspects are usually forced to hold up when taking photos that are sent to the press.
He rejected the lie detector because he believed that you cannot keep someone in an underground cell and subject him to psychological torture and tie him up to a lie detector machine. Why is it that the person who the purported bribe originated from is walking free? The person who admitted giving the bribe is the key suspect and the one who should be charged. Senator Sani will not be stupid to accept such a test. How do we know if the machine has not been manipulated? Who has ever been subjected to a lie detector test by the EFCC since inception? Why should the senator be the first?
Do Senator Sani’s relatives and lawyers have access to him?
Initially, there was a lot of intimidation because in the first five days of his arrest, whenever food was taken to him, we would be made to wait for several hours till somebody at the top gives the order for clearance. Due to this, he doesn’t eat on time. Sometimes, he gets his breakfast at 11am or 12 while he gets his lunch at 4pm. That is why his family resolved to give him food twice a day. So, does this have to do with extortion?