World Bulletin/News Desk
Nigeria on Tuesday denied wrongdoing in a new $5.7 million arms deal, hours after South African authorities seized the funds wired by Abuja through a bank to an arms broker in South Africa.
"We want to state clearly that a business transaction actually took place between a legitimate company in Nigeria and another legitimate one in South Africa through the bank," National Security Adviser Sambo Dasuki said in a statement read out by his aide Karounwi Adekunle.
"In the course of the events, the South African company could not perform and decided to refund the money. What is illegitimate in this transaction through the bank?"
South Africa's Asset Forfeiture Unit of the National Prosecuting Authority has seized $5.7 million, which it suspected to be proceeds of illegal arms transactions.
According to South African daily City Press, the arms deal was between Nigerian firm Societe D'Equipnents Internationaux and South African arms broker firm Cerberus Risk Solution.
The paper said the deal failed because the South African firm was having issues with its license and was trying to refund the money when Pretoria ordered its seizure.
The newspaper said that Cerberus was previously registered as a broker with the National Conventional Arms Control Committee but the registration expired in May.
"The marketing and contracting permits also expired at the same time. The company has since applied for reregistration but the application lay in the NCACC's mailbox for more than two months," a source was quoted as saying by the newspaper.
In what may trigger a diplomatic row between Abuja and Pretoria, Dasuki reminded South Africa of cooperation its businessmen enjoys in Nigeria.
"It is our hope that South Africa would reciprocate this noble gesture," he said, in what amounted to subtle threat of retaliation over recent seizure by South African authorities.
Nigeria's opposition All Progressive Congress (APC), meanwhile, warned Tuesday that "illegal" arms deals involving the country could dent Nigeria's image.
"APC is asking the President (Goodluck Jonathan) to explain the serial embarrassments to which his administration is subjecting the country in the comity of nations," APC spokesman Lai Mohammed said in a statement.
The latest transaction came weeks after similar seizure by Pretoria of a $9.3 million reportedly belonging to Nigerian authorities and allegedly meant to procure arms through the black market.
Mohammed said the actions of the government risk turning Nigeria "into a rogue nation by taking ownership of money laundering and other acts of illegality."
He went on to call on the Nigerian President "to come clean over these cash-for-arms scandals."
"Nigerians want to know why the purported arms procurement for the government is done illegally between private companies that are neither known nor registered for dealing in arms," Mohammed said.
"And why are the movements of monies not transparently documented for what they really are, if they are truly for legitimate purposes?," he asked.
"(Nigerians) want to know whether indeed the weapons which the government is seeking...to procure are for the battle against Boko Haram or for a sinister motive, considering the desperation of your administration to continue to rule at all cost and by any means possible."
Nigeria remains in the throes of insecurity blamed largely on a Boko Haram insurgency that has killed thousands, shattered businesses and displaced millions across the country's northeastern region.
Last Mod: 08 Ekim 2014, 13:04