The All Progressives Congress, APC, has said President Goodluck Jonathan committed a serious error of judgement, abused his office, violated the Constitution and engaged in corruption when he involved himself in the Abuja land grab scheme that fetched him 90.04 Hectares of land in the Aviation Village, barely seven months after he was sworn into office.
In a statement issued in London on Monday by its National Publicity Secretary, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, the party said nothing can justify the indiscretion of a sitting president acquiring such a huge swath of land, as contained in a newspaper advert and yet unrefuted by the Presidency.
It said the claim of President Jonathan’s apologists that he grabbed the land because he wanted to engage in farming, which it said is allowed under the Fifth Schedule Part 1 (Code of Conduct for Public Officers) of the 1999 Constitution, and the disingenuous justification of the land grab on the basis that former President Olusegun Obasanjo did the same while in office, missed the point.
The opposition party said the issues involved go beyond the fact that a public officer is legally allowed to engage in farming, adding that the provision quoted by Jonathan’s apologists is a weak and untenable defence.
“The Fifth Schedule Part 1(Code of Conduct for Public Officers) of the 1999 Constitution, Section 1 states that ‘a public officer shall not put himself in a position where his personal interest conflicts with his duties and responsibilities’. But that’s exactly what the President did by leveraging his high office to grab a prime land in Abuja. Would Goodluck Jonathan have been given 90.04 Ha of such a prime land were he not a sitting President?
“What happened in that Abuja land grab is nothing but the height of indiscretion and abuse of office, and cannot be justified or explained away just like that. Without mincing words, it also amounts to corruption, which is defined in part as a perversion of integrity, and a glaring instance of bad leadership”, the party said.
It said the Minister of the Federal Capital Territory, Bala Mohammed, was emboldened to also grab 40.40Ha of prime land in Abuja, under the facade of using it for farming, because his boss, the President, has done so.
On the justification of Mr. Jonathan’s action by citing similar acts by Chief Obasanjo, the APC said “Those pushing this kind of argument are worsening the President’s case and insulting Nigerians. When did one bad act become a justification for another? Does a thief escape punishment by saying he stole because someone else has stolen? If indeed Chief Obasanjo did it, does that make it right? Is this not part of the reasons this President has been unable to fight corruption?
“It is also important to point out that the Aviation village, under the Abuja Master plan, is meant only for Aviation-related activities and not farming. The President knew this, yet he went ahead to apply and was allocated land for farming in the Aviation Village. Perhaps his intention is to subsequently apply for a change of use. How many other people were allocated land for farming in the Aviation Village?” the party queried.
APC, therefore, asked President Jonathan to apologize to Nigerians for engaging in such a brazen abuse of office, act of corruption and violation of the Constitution and immediately give up the land he has grabbed.