N31b Loot: Jonathan’s Camp To Seek Talks With Buhari, As Suspects Opts For Plea Bargain
President Muhammadu Buhari and his predecessor, Dr. Goodluck Jonathan, may soon meet over the mind- boggling revelations from the arms cash probe.
Former National Security Adviser (NSA) Sambo Dasuki, who is standing trial for alleged misapplication and fraudulent disbursement of over N31b meant for purchase of arms, has alleged in his statement to the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) that all his disbursements were approved by the ex-President.
Sources said some associates of Dr. Jonathan were arranging a private meeting between the leaders to enable Jonathan “straighten out” some things with the President.
It was also gathered that the ex-President’s camp noted that some of the N31billion cash was sourced from “security votes and budget for Special Services”.
“Jonathan will prefer a private audience with the President rather than taking up issues with the suspects in public. Some of the expenditures have grave security implications as they involve some neighbouring countries,” a source said, adding:
“As a statesman, Jonathan cannot just open up at all. For example, there is a unit where the overhead of past Presidents and Heads of State was taken care of. Some of the funds disbursed by the office had to do with these funds. If Jonathan speaks, will he not rubbish these past leaders?
“Some Presidents from some countries sought financial assistance from ex-President Goodluck Jonathan. Do you expect the former leader to issue a statement on such a sensitive request?”
The source spoke of how Nigeria bought vehicles and some equipment for some countries from the funds, adding that diplomatic etiquette does not allow such a disclosure.
“At a point, there was negotiation to end Boko Haram insurgency. This type of deal cannot be put in the public domain”, he said, pleading not to be named because he is not permitted to talk to the media.
Also yesterday, it was learnt that some of the suspects facing trial may opt to return looted funds and forfeit some assets in exchange for freedom or light sentences.
It was also learnt that some leaders of the North may prevail on President Buhari for soft-landing for some of the suspects.
About N31billion has been traced to more than nine suspects facing trial in Abuja courts.
Some of the suspects, according to sources close to the investigations, are already overwhelmed by the evidence against them and would prefer the plea bargain option.
The suspects are said to have volunteered to return the funds traced to them and their cronies through phoney companies.
They are also said to be considering the plea bargain option to save time and get lighter jail terms where conviction becomes necessary.
The names of the suspects seeking plea bargain were kept under wraps last night, but only a former Minister of State for Finance, Alhaji Bashir Yuguda, has indicated his willingness to recover N600million out of the over N1billion traced to him.
A source, who spoke in confidence, said: “Despite the fact that most of the suspects pleaded not guilty, some of them have been considering plea bargain to get off the hook.
“Those affected have told the EFCC in confidence that they want to return looted funds and assets for outright state pardon or lighter jail terms.
“These few ones seeking plea bargain said they ought to regain freedom to retrieve funds where they are stashed.
“In fact, one of the suspects said having admitted that he had slush funds, there was nothing to prove in court again.”
Last night, counsel to one of the key suspects said: “I think there is a plea bargain offer by some suspects. Some lawyers appearing in the cases have been meeting to enable the nation to get some of these funds back.
“These suspects would, however, prefer to return funds and assets to the EFCC for outright pardon.
“As I am talking to you, we have not reached any conclusion on the terms of plea bargain to be presented to the EFCC, which is prosecuting all the suspects.”
Some elders, led by a former Secretary to the Government of the Federation are said to be pushing for soft landing for some of those on trial.
The elders are said to be worried that most of the suspects are from the North.
It was learnt that the elders had been under pressure to save these key Northern figures on trial.
But some of the elders, who are unsure of President Buhari’s reaction, were said to have met with presidential confidants.
There were plans last night for the elders to have an audience with the President.
Another source said: “These elders want a plea bargain alternative, which will lead to the surrendering of all looted funds by the suspects.
“Thereafter, an amicable political solution will be reached to allow the suspects to go home and sin no more. Alternatively, those with bad cases can serve lighter jail terms.”