The Nigerian government and its South African counterpart are enmeshed in a fresh diplomatic row over another $5.7 million arms money from Nigeria seized in that country, indications emerged yesterday.
The latest conroversy is coming barely one month after two Nigerians and an Israeli national were nabbed in South Africa while attempting to smuggle $9.3 million apparently meant for buying arms for the Nigerian intelligence service.
A South African-based paper, City Express, reported yesterday that, just as with the first deal, South Africa’s Asset Forfeiture Unit of the National Prosecuting Authority seized the $5.7 million (about N952 million) for allegedly being the proceeds of illegal transactions.
The newspaper had in the first S$9.3 million three weeks ago reported that documents in its possession showed the first consignment was personally signed off by the National Security Adviser, Col Sambo Dasuki (rtd) who issued the end-user certificate for the transaction.
But in a swift reaction, the NSA has described the latest transaction as a legitimate deal.
City Press had noted in its report that the latest transaction was between Cerberus Risk Solutions, an arms broker in Cape Town, and Societe D’Equipments Internationaux, said to be a Nigerian company based in Abuja.
It added that deal fell apart when Cerberus, which had earlier received R60 million (N1.02 billion) from Nigeria in its account at Standard Bank, attempted to repay the money after it was unable to resolve its registration formalities with the South African authorities. Sources said that Cerberus apparently tried to repay the money back to the Nigerian company, after which the bank became suspicious.
However, picking holes in the report, Col. Dasuki argued that the whole transaction followed laid down procedures since it involved a legitimate company, saying the incident was the handiwork of some fifth columnists within the system.
Reacting through the spokesman of his office, Mr. Karounwi Adebisi, Col. Dasuki wondered why the South African government could not reciprocate the gesture of the Nigerian government, which provides enabling environment to some of their companies based here in Nigeria.
He said: “We want to state clearly that a business transaction actually took place between a legitimate company in Nigeria and another legitimate company in South Africa through a bank. In the course of events, the South African could not perform and decided to refund the money. What is illegitimate in this transaction done through the bank?”
He noted Nigeria provides enabling environment for South African companies like MTN, DSTV and a host of others to do business unhindered, and wondered why South Africa would not reciprocate this noble gesture.
“There is no alternative; we must win the war against insurgency, irrespective of the demeaning activities of fifth columnists,” he insisted.