Senate President Bukola Saraki yesterday denied reports by an online news medium that he collected bribe from former President Goodluck Jonathan to help him influence the report of the Senate Finance Committee, which probed alleged missing $20 billion from the Nigeria National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) account.
Saraki, who accused the news medium of smear campaign and acting the script of its sponsors, demanded a retraction of the story and an apology for the publication.
According to a statement by his Special Assistant, New Media, Bankole Omisore, the senate president noted that since he dumped the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) for the All Progressives (APC), he had never had any contact with Jonathan.
Furthermore, Saraki said it was on record that he was the only member of the Ahmed-Makarfi-led Finance Committee that probed the allegation, who refused to sign the report on the grounds that he was not convinced on its findings.
“The attention of the Senate President’s media office has been drawn to a malicious fabrication by an online publication aimed at tarnishing the reputation of the Senate President, Senator Abubakar Bukola Saraki.
“First, as a senator in the seventh National Assembly, the Senate President Abubakar Bukola Saraki never signed the report of the Ahmed Makarfi-led Finance Committee investigation into the alleged non-remittance by NNPC of $20 billion into the federation account.
“In his letter dated June 30, 2014 to the committee withholding his signature, he said ‘it is my opinion that this report as laid has not fully addressed the matter referred to us adequately and conclusively. The report has not been definitive on its findings and has failed to address some of the critical issues I had raised during our meetings. For this reason, I am withholding my support and signature’.
“The records of the committee are still accessible in the National Assembly and a copy is here attached. Secondly, it is still on record that Senator Saraki is the only senator in the committee that refused to sign the report even in the face of severe duress and personal inconvenience. Saraki during the investigation, was known to have been very probing with his questions, meticulously reviewing the data offered by NNPC to get to the bottom of the issue.
“It would be recalled that though he did not make the last meeting of the committee, when the news broke that the committee had cleared the NNPC, he was the first and the only senator to refute the report, saying ‘the recent media reports claiming that the Senate Committee on Finance has cleared NNPC of any unaccounted revenue fund are not true… I have been very active in the investigation, nothing significant has changed to suggest clearing of anyone”, the statement said.
He also described as falsehood the online news medium’s claim that he worked with the ex-president to bring down the amount of unremitted funds as he challenged it to produce evidence of its claim.
Saraki also debunked the allegation that the former president sent gifts of money and other items to him through the Chagoury family but added that the Chagourys have been friends to his family for 26 years.
“Also, Saraki never met with Jonathan on this report (committee met last on the 16th of February 2014). So, the thought of Saraki working to bring down the number or amount unremitted with Goodluck Jonathan is completely false.
“For the avoidance of doubt, there has been no meeting of any type between Senator Saraki and former President Jonathan since the senator left PDP. So, any suggestion that ex-President Jonathan sent Chagoury to Saraki with gifts/money to seek support from him on the report is totally false. Both the Sarakis and Chagourys have been family friends for over 26 years.
“We hereby request the general public to disregard the antics of the online news medium. We further call on the medium to immediately retract this offensive publication and offer an unequivocal apology to Saraki, the National Assembly and the citizenry of Nigeria for this unprovoked, reckless and mindless publication.
“The Media Office of the Senate President hereby uses this opportunity to put it on record that the posts by the online news medium are completely false with no iota of truth whatsoever.
“We also challenge the medium to either post facts or any documentation with proof or desist from misleading the reading public with dirty works of fiction apparently commissioned by some politicians in an attempt to destabilise the legislative arm of government and the country as a whole”, the statement added.