A viral post on WhatsApp making a series of assertions on PDP’s Presidential candidate, Atiku Abubakar was seen by FactCheckElections.
Although FactCheckElections could not ascertain the author of the post but from all indications, it is believed to emanate from a pro Tinubu group known as ‘Concerned Nigerians Movement Towards Good Governance’ and credited to a certain A.A.A. #ALHAJI #PRINCE.
The author of the post wondered why PDP changed its mind on Atiku after making some grievous assertions against him when he was running for President on the platform of Action Congress (AC) in 2006 ahead of the 2007 polls.
These assertions bordered mostly on corruption allegations leveled against Atiku when he was still serving as the Vice-President between 1999-2007.
A Serial Contestant: Chronicling Atiku’s Quest To Be Nigeria’s President
Alhaji Atiku Abubakar, is not an alien to Nigerian politics. Next year will mark his 30th year attempting to be the president of this nation.
Atiku’s first shot at the presidential seat was when he contested on the platform of the defunct Social Democratic Party (SDP) in 1993 during the transition to civil rule programme of the Gen. Ibrahim Babangida junta. Unfortunately, the Waziri of Adamawa came third after MKO Abiola and Babagana Kingibe in the primaries of the party.
In 1998 however, he contested and won the governorship of Adamawa State on the platform of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP). But while awaiting his swearing in into office, luck smiled on him as the then presidential candidate of the PDP, Chief Olusegun Obasanjo chose him as his running mate for 1999 presidential election. The duo went on to win the election in 1999. They took the oath of office on May 29, the same year.
Things begin to fall apart between both leaders in the build up to the 2003 general election but the rift was curtailed to some extent and they joined forces to clinch the PDP re-run ticket. Despite their re-election in 2003, evidence would later emerge that all is not well with their harmonious relationship.
Atiku openly worked against Obasanjo’s third term bid in 2006. Obasanjo in retaliation declined to support Atiku as his successor in office. To make matters worse for Atiku, his name appeared in the list of 135 politicians indicted by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) for alleged corrupt practices. This led to Atiku’s premature disqualification from the 2007 polls based on the recommendation of a panel setup by Obasanjo on which the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) acted on. It took the judgment of the Supreme Court to allow Atiku, who had then defected to the Action Congress (AC) and emerged as the party’s presidential candidate, to contest the election. He later lost the poll, coming third behind the late Umaru Musa Yar’Adua and Muhammadu Buhari of the then All Nigeria Peoples Party (ANPP).
Atiku would later re-join the PDP in August 2010, declaring his intention to contest the 2011 presidential election on the platform of the party. He lost the ticket to former president Goodluck Jonathan and remained in the party until February 2014 when he left the party to join the APC.
In a never say never attitude, the Adamawa State born politician has thrown his hat into the ring once again to pursue his life ambition of being president. This time he’s up against APC’s Bola Tinubu, Labour Party’s Peter Obi and NNPP’s Rabiu Kwankwanso.
In his almost 30 years of attempting to be the president of Nigeria, one thing has been consistent with his candidature and that is the label of corruption but he has unequivocally stated repeatedly that he is not corrupt and attributing his source of wealth to his resourcefulness and successful investments.
In an interview with CNN Africa in 2019, he reiterated that if he was corrupt, he would have been charged to court or indicted.
Asked by the interviewer, “Why do you think your name is linked to corruption?” Atiku said, “I have been successful. Secondly, I have never been charged; I have never been indicted. They are all allegations. And I have asked anybody, I dared people publicly, that is, if anybody has evidence of corruption against me, let him come out.”
“Are you corrupt?” the interviewer asked.
“Certainly not; because if I am corrupt, I would have been certainly charged or indicted,” the former Vice-President said.
This fact-check seeks to verify some of the assertions made against Atiku in the WhatsApp writeup.
Was Atiku indicted of graft in the US hence disallowing him not to travel there for the rest of his life?
A search by FactCheckElections revealed that the former vice president was prominently involved in two corruption cases which are; the corruption trial of former U.S. congressman William Jefferson, who was accused by the FBI in 2004 for demanding a bribe of $500,000 to facilitate the award of contracts to two American telecommunication firms in Nigeria. Jefferson was convicted in 2009 and sentenced to 13 years in prison. His sentence was subsequently reduced but Atiku denied the allegation.
In the other case, U.S. senate investigators said in 2010 that one of Atiku’s wives allegedly assisted him in transferring more than $40 million in “suspect funds” from offshore shell companies into the U.S. The U.S. senate’s investigation found that at least $1.7 million of that money came from bribes given by Siemens AG, a German technology company. Siemens pleaded to bribery charges in 2008 and agreed to pay a $1.6 billion fine. However, neither Atiku nor his wife is facing criminal charges in the U.S. as they repeatedly denied wrongdoing.
According to Judd Legum, a journalist and former research director of the Hillary Clinton presidential campaign, Atiku’s inability to enter the U.S. may be as a result of the Presidential Proclamation 7750 signed by President George Bush, which bans entry for current and former corrupt foreign officials — especially those whose corruption has a nexus in the country, Atiku as a result of this was unable to obtain a visa to the U.S.
But speaking in an interview in December 2017, the PDP presidential candidate said: “It is the sole prerogative of America to determine who they want in their country or not. I’m not running away from America. I applied, but wasn’t issued a visa.”
Fast forward to 2019, when he first contested on the platform of PDP to challenge President Muhammadu Buhari’s reelection bid, Atiku finally visited the U.S. for the first time in 12 years after he was granted a ‘temporary waiver’. He visited the country in company of former Senate President, Sen. Bukola Saraki and some of his political associates.
According to Reuters in an exclusive report, the visit was made possible with the help of two U.S. lobbying firms — Holland & Knight was hired personally by Atiku to help him secure a visa, the firms were also mandated to help in enlisting members of Congress to request one on his behalf. The lobbyist firm was paid $80,000 as at then.
On the other hand, Ballard Partners was hired by PDP at a rate of $90,000 per month in September 2018, before Atiku emerged as the party’s candidate, according to U.S. disclosure filings.
According to TheCable, former president Olusegun Obasanjo was also said to have assisted Atiku in the process which made the U.S. grant him the visa.
On the overall, the former vice-president paid as much as $540,000 to get his way into the U.S., this is according to Judd Legum, former research director of the Hillary Clinton presidential campaign.
The PDP presidential candidate recently took his electioneering campaign to the United States, putting an end to the notion that he could not travel to the country for the rest of his life.
Although reports show that Atiku was indicted in two corruption cases in the United States but he wasn’t prosecuted. Also, the claim that he could not travel to the U.S. for the rest of his life is false.
Did Atiku massively steal PTDF funds?
Petroleum Technology Development Fund (PTDF) is a fund designed to use a percentage of Nigeria’s oil revenues to invest in training and technology related to the petroleum sector.
According to reports, Obasanjo fell out with Atiku in 2006 due to Atiku’s refusal to support his intention to amend the constitution which will enable him to run for third-term.
The EFCC would later accuse Atiku of abusing his office by directing the Petroleum Technology Development Fund (PTDF) to place millions of dollars in two banks in order to funnel the money to businesses he allegedly had interests in. The anti-graft agency further asked that Atiku be barred from contesting in the 2007 presidential election based on its indictment.
Obasanjo then set up the Ignatius Ayua administrative panel of inquiry which accepted EFCC’s indictment and barred Atiku from contesting, although Atiku got the indictment annulled in the court and eventually contested in the election.
The Senate also investigated the matter in 2006 through an ad hoc committee headed by Victor Ndoma-Egba, in its 54 page report released in 2007, Atiku Abubakar and Olusegun Obasanjo were indicted of abuse of the agency’s fund between 1999 and 2006.
The report specifically accused Atiku of aiding and abetting the diversion of $145 million (about N18.5 billion) of the PTDF money, noting that he connived with the past chief executive of the agency to convert PTDF’s money to loans using some companies suspected to be owned by his friends.
“Abubakar … abused his office by aiding and abetting the diversion of public funds in the sums of $125 million and $20 million respectively, approved for specific projects, to deposits in banks, some of which were fraudulently converted as loans (to private companies),” the report said.
The report recommended sanctioning him, but did not specify how since he has immunity from prosecution as the vice president.
Mr Abubakar had earlier told the Senate Ad-hoc Committee on the PTDF that Obasanjo should be held liable for the mismanagement of funds in the agency.
He also revealed to the committee that the money got missing during the debate on third term tenure for President Olusegun Obasanjo adding that Obasanjo approved the vote for the PTDF but that what it was used for remained unknown.
This claim is true. According to various reports, both Obasanjo and Atiku were indicted in the PTDF scandal but they were not prosecuted for it.
Did Atiku abuse his office by cornering to himself all the juiciest national assets while he headed the privatization process midwifed by the BPE?
The Bureau of Public Enterprises (BPE) is the implementation arm of the National Council on Privatisation (NCP) established in 1999 by the Obasanjo administration under the provisions of the Public Enterprises (Privatisation and Commercialisation) Act of 1999.
The enterprise which was headed by Atiku Abubakar between 1999 to 2006 was charged with driving the Federal Government’s programme of privatizing public enterprises, carrying out sector reforms and liberalization of key economic sectors, especially the infrastructure sector.
In 2011, former Vice President Namadi Sambo revealed that 80 percent of government companies that had been privatised had failed to operate properly due to lapses in the privatisation process. This revelation which was not taken lightly by the Senate led to the setting up of a seven-man ad hoc committee to investigate the privatisation and commercialisation activities of the Bureau of Public Enterprises (BPE) from 1999.
Senator Ahmed Lawan led panel invited the former heads (Mallam Nasir El-rufai, Chris Anyanwu, Dr. Julius Bala and Ms. Irene Chigbue) and officials of BPE who were directly in charge of the privatization exercise. The revelations by these persons made a mess of most of the high profile sales of public companies during Obasanjo’s administration. The BPE officials testified that both Atiku and his boss influenced and mismanaged the process, singling out Obasanjo who was accused of hijacking the process by acting unilaterally as supervisor of the exercise.
According to reports, it was alleged that most of the high profile sales of public companies were approved by him rather than the legally recognised National Council on Privatization (NCP), chaired by the Vice President and this was due to the politics of acrimony that played out between them.
The Senate adopted the entire 45 recommendations by the panel which placed sanction on several privatized companies and individuals involved.
In 2013 however, Mr. El-Rufai resuscitated the matter in his book titled “The Accidental Public Servant”, when he disclosed that Atiku, as chairman of the National Council on Privatization, NCP, meddled in the privatisation of Nigeria’s national telecoms carrier, the Nigerian Telecommunications Limited, NITEL which ultimately truncated the process. According to him, Atiku’s meddlesomeness suggested he had pecuniary interest in some of the deals which was believed by many to be fraught with corruption.
El-Rufai’s disclosure led to a series of war of words between him and Atiku. The latest came in 2016 when Atiku in an interview with Zero Tolerance, the EFCC journal, sought to dismiss the corruption tag placed on him by el-Rufai in his book.
He accused el-Rufai of betraying him even though “I was instrumental in bringing [him] into government and making him Director General of the Bureau of Public Enterprises, BPE, and eventually a minister”.
He said el-Rufai (along with former EFCC chairman, Nuhu Ribadu) was used by President Olusegun Obasanjo to cook up allegations of corruption against him in 2006.
“This is the same el-Rufai and others who incorporated Transcorp during my time as vice president and offered me shares and I declined. I wrote them officially to say it was unethical of me to have accepted those offers. So, where is the corruption toga coming from?” he added.
But El-Rufai in a statement personally signed by him, accused Atiku of understanding the art of spreading falsehood.
Also, in response to an open letter by stand-up Comedian, Francis Agoda aka, I Go Dye in 2017, Atiku conceded that most of those who participated in the privatization process were his friends but he never manipulated the system in their favour.
The response reads in part: “I was also in charge of privatization and I have witnesses that I never interfered with the process. I never bought anything belonging to the government. I was quite wealthy before coming into government, with declared assets worth hundreds of millions of dollars in 1999; so it was understandable that many of the wealthy Nigerian business people who participated in the privatization programme were my friends. Did I use my influence to get them better deals? No. As the then DG of BPE testified under oath, I never used my position to interfere with his work.”
True, various reports again indicted him and his boss but they weren’t charged to court.
Did Atiku bribe the National Assembly into fighting against Obasanjo?
Although there are no news reports or official documents to validate this claim but the closest evidence seen by FactCheckElections that suggests bribery is the autobiography of the former president Olusegun Obasanjo titled ‘My Watch’
In the book, Obasanjo narrated how Atiku distributed US$5,000 each to some senators to impeach the Senate President, Evan Enwerem (Obasanjo’s favourite) and then install Chuba Okadigbo.
“By the Constitution, I had to inaugurate or prorogue the National Assembly on June 4, 1999. The most important officer in the National Assembly is the senate president and that office had been zoned to the South-east. And here was where Atiku Abubakar, my vice-president, first showed his hand and his character.
“Without seeking my view or approval, he started planning the installation of Chuba Okadigbo as the senate president. I did a background check on Chuba including his past as a student and made enquiries about him in the National Party of Nigeria (NPN) under (President Shehu) Shagari and no one would recommend him for the post of senate president.
“I left Atiku to go on his chase while I carried out a meticulous and detailed investigation and background check on each senator from the South-east. The one that appeared most appointable was Evan Enwerem. I canvassed the senate across the board for his election and he was elected. Atiku did not expect it and he felt sore.
“He began to strategise for Enwerem to be removed and Chuba Okadigbo to be installed. His strategy worked because I was at Abuja airport to receive a visiting head of state when the news reached me that the Senate had impeached Enwerem and elected Okadigbo. I was not perturbed. I came to understand from some senators including Florence Ita-Giwa, who later became my Special Adviser/ Liaison Officer to the National Assembly, that Atiku distributed US$5,000 each to some senators to carry out the ‘coup’.”
But contrary to Obasanjo’s claim, media reports have it that Senator Enwerem who was only five months into his role as the nation’s Senate President was impeached by the investigating committee for falsifying his documents, which had his name as Evans, not Evan.
He was succeeded by Chuba Okadigbo, who was also from the same state as Enwerem (Anambra) but in 2000 like Enwerem, Okadigbo was also impeached and removed as the senate president due to corruption charges.
Inconclusive, there was no media reports or official documents to support the claim.
Was Atiku involved in the Halliburton Scandal?
The Halliburton Bribery Scandal dates to 1994 when the Nigerian government launched ambitious plans to build the Bonny Island Natural Liquefied Gas Project.
According to reports, it is a network of secretive banks and offshore tax havens which was used to funnel $182 million in bribes to Nigerian officials in exchange for $6 billion in engineering and construction work for an international consortium of companies that included a then Halliburton subsidiary.
Nigeria is said to have lost at least $26 million to corrupt officials in the high-wire financial scandal, in which other key players from several countries have been sentenced to various jail terms and made to pay various sums of fines to their governments.
While those from foreign lands who gave the bribes have since been punished by their respective governments, the beneficiaries from Nigeria are yet to be fished out and sanctioned.
In 2009, the then president, late Umaru Musa Yar’Adua set up a five-man inter-agency panel to probe the Halliburton bribery Scandal. The panel was headed by the then Inspector-General of Police, Mr. Mike Okiro.
The panel interim report revealed that Obasanjo shared the sum of $74 million USD between 2000 and 2001 with his Vice-President, Atiku Abubakar, as well as Funsho Kupolokun and Gaius Obaseki, who were successive heads of the Nigeria National Petroleum Corporation during the government’s early years.
The report further revealed that during that same time span, Obasanjo and PDP also pocketed $5m from the Halliburton slush funds.
Other major beneficiaries according to the report included General Sani Abacha, who got $40 million in 1994-95; Ibrahim Aliyu, $11.7million in 2001-2002; former Minister, Dan Etete, $2.5 million in 1996-1998; Abdulkadir Abacha, $1.8 in 1998; and M.G. Bakari, $3.1 million.
In another report here, a 500-page document in five notebooks submitted by Halliburton Group of Companies to the EFCC few months after the commission reopened investigation into the unresolved Scandal in 2016 under the Buhari administration. The document was allegedly found in the archives of the London Office of KBR by Halliburton’s Attorneys investigating the matter.
According to the document, those implicated in the Halliburton Notebooks are: Four ex-Heads of State; two former Chiefs of General Staff, two ex-First Ladies; ex-CBN Governor; three former Military Governors/ Administrators; a former Deputy Governor of CBN, 11 former ministers(including two ex-Ministers of Petroleum Resources); two retired permanent secretaries and three ex-NNPC GMDs.
Others are ex-secretaries to the Government of the Federation; a former civilian governor in the South-East; a former Ambassador to Italy, an ex-envoy to Brazil, three ex-NNPC secretaries, a former Chief Security Officer to a former Head of State; former MD, NLNG/Shell; former Chief of Army Staff; a former Field Commandant of ECOMOG in Liberia; ex-MD of NAFCON; and more than 13 former NNPC top shots.
“Although the information contained in these Notebooks are not specific in terms of amount allegedly collected by named Nigerian officials from officials of TSKJ as an inducement for favors in the award of contract, it shed light on this scam and confirmed the existence of some sort of inducements shared by both officials of TSKJ and Nigerian Government who were in position to influence the award of the contract.
“A former Minister was a key player in this scam and had already admitted to collecting money as inducement from Jeffrey Tesler/TSKJ to the investigating magistrate in Paris.” The document reads in part.
Inconclusive, according to Mr. Mike Okiro’s panel report, he and Obasanjo were involved in the scandal, but they didn’t face any charges for it.
Is Atiku he is a gay?
Using search engines, FactCheckElections was unable to find any evidence to support this assertion but what was slightly related to this claim was the endorsement of Atiku by the Diverse, Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender (LGBT) Rights Movement in Nigeria in 2018 ahead of the 2019 presidential election.
According to the group, Atiku’s emergence is a victory for democracy as it provides the electorates the option of a liberal candidate in Atiku Abubakar, who has indicated that he is the only one that can ensure that the rights, preferences and the interests of all Nigerians are accommodated in a country that collectively belongs to us all.
“This is a conclusion that we arrived at after critically assessing the antecedents of all those that have so far emerged as candidates from other political parties for the nation’s number one job, their body language and their reactions in the past to matters that pertain to upholding the rights of Nigerians to freely make choices without being criminalized for preferences that have been widely accepted by countries that are making progress…” the statement reads in part.
The claim is misleading. There is no evidence to support it.
Is Atiku seeking to become president in order to keep enjoying immunity from EFCC prosecution which was seriously awaiting him?
There is no substantial evidence to support this claim. Although Atiku has been indicted in so many high profile corruption cases between 1999-2007, the EFCC is yet to charge him to court for any of the offences.
However, checks by FactCheckElections revealed that some of his family members and close associates have at one time or the other been arrested by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC).
This claim is false, there’s no evidence to support it that EFCC prosecution is awaiting him.
Even though Atiku was not prosecuted for some of the allegations leveled against him in some of the several high profile corruption cases that dominated the Obasanjo administration, it is safe to say that merely getting involved has created the perception among members of the public that he is a corrupt politician.
Another important point to note is that his feud with Obasanjo fueled most of these allegations against him.
In an interview with TheCable in 2014, Atiku said that the corruption allegations against him were politically motivated because of his face-off with Obasanjo.
Asked what wrong impression people have about him that he would love to correct, he responded: “It would definitely be the perception that I corruptly enriched myself during my tenure as vice-president. This is especially because I’m the most investigated politician in Nigeria’s history.
“At the height of my rift with my former boss, several investigations were ordered against me, yet none came up with anything.”
The duo are now on good terms and they recently had a closed-door meeting that lasted for about one hour but the details of their meeting was not disclosed to the media. Regardless of this, the feud has done a lot of damage on Atiku’s political career.