Rotimi Amaechi, former governor of Rivers state and now minister of transportation, leaked former president Olusegun Obasanjo’s letter to former president Goodluck Jonathan on the “missing $20 billion” in December 2013, Muhammad Sanusi II has told Forbes.
Sanusi, as central bank governor, had written to Jonathan to raise the alarm over billions of dollars from oil sale not remitted to the federation account.
Obasanjo then followed up with his own letter titled “before it is too late” – and the letter was published in full by online newspaper, Premium Times, before it was republished by other outlets.
Sanusi was later suspended as CBN governor but he became emir of Kano while he was in court seeking that his suspension be declared illegal.
The emir of Kano revealed that Jonathan did nothing until Obasanjo wrote him the letter.
The emir also said Ben Bruce, senator representing Bayelsa east, told him that he had it on good authority that former president Goodluck Jonathan would jail him over the affair.
Narrating the $20 billion saga to Forbes Africa, Sanusi said that in 2012 and 2013, government revenue collapsed by $10 billion, without a collapse in oil prices or production capacity, adding that the CBN found a $49 billion revenue gap.
Shocked at the revelation, Sanusi said he wrote Jonathan, saying: “If this continues, we are going to have a big problem if the price of oil came down. We can’t protect interest rates, we can’t protect exchange rates, we can’t protect reserves.
“We may have to tighten money to prevent inflation, there will be unemployment, government will suffer – all of the things we are seeing today.”
OBASANJO’S LETTER PUSHED JONATHAN TO ACTION
Sanusi said nothing was done until Obasanjo wrote his famous open letter to Jonathan. In that letter, he now referred to a letter from the central bank governor.
“This was in August 2013, the president received the letter and did nothing. A few weeks after that, the finance minister called to say, governor, can we do some reconciliation on oil revenue numbers? I said minister, I report to the president.
“I have written to the president, if the president wants me to sit with you and do reconciliation, the president will tell me.
“After Obasanjo’s letter, all hell now broke loose. The letter was then leaked to online media, and it became public. That was when the president got angry and we then had to sit and do reconciliation.
NOBODY TOUCHES DIEZANI AND SURVIVES
“I knew that taking on NNPC was taking on the most powerful minister in Jonathan’s government, and nobody who had touched Diezani had survived. It was not a question of what would happen, I just didn’t care at that time. I did not want to go down in history as having seen this and kept quiet.
“After the first round of reconciliation, there was $29 billion that was explained. And how was that explained? Crude that was shipped by NNPC did not entirely belong to NNPC.”
He said some oil companies paid taxes and royalties in oil, and the NNPC sold this oil on behalf of FIRS, meaning FIRS got the money and not necessarily the federal government.
“No reasonable explanation for $20 billion, $6 billion was with NPDC that had not gotten to the federation account till date.
JONATHAN SAID I LEAVE OR HE LEAVES
“In the middle of all these, the president called me and said I should see him at 3pm. I turned up at 3pm and the entire place had been swept. There was no one apart from security services. I got to his office, it was just me and him. It was as if everybody had been asked to go.
“And so he says to me, he’s calling me because he is surprised that letter I wrote to him got to Obasanjo, I said I’m surprised too.
“He said he’s convinced that the letter went from the central bank to Obasanjo, and I had 24 hours to find who leaked the letter or sack somebody; the director who prepared the letter or my secretary and if I did not sack them, that was proof that I leaked the letter and therefore, I should resign.
“I said to him that I’m surprised that I’m being asked to resign for raising an alarm over missing funds and the minister in charge of the portfolio is not being asked to resign.
“From then I knew I had signed my equivalent for death warrant. But I said I was not resigning. He got very angry and said whether you like it or not, you’re going to leave that office, I cannot continue to work with you, either you or I will leave government.
JONATHAN IS NOT A LEADER THAT CAN KILL
“I was amused that leaking the letter is far more crime than leaking money. I went straight to the office of the principal secretary to the president, and I met him with a gentleman from Kano, who was foreign minister Ambassador Aminu Ali.
“I said to them, gentlemen, I’m coming to you because I just had a meeting with the president, and there were no witnesses, and the president had threatened me.
“I repeated what happened and told them I am going to tell people close to me, if anything happens to me, it is the president.
“I don’t think I was really in fear of my life. Even if you don’t like someone – Jonathan was not the kind of person that would have someone killed. He wasn’t that kind of leader.”
BEN BRUCE TOLD ME THEY’D JAIL ME
“I remember Ben Murray Bruce, who is now a senator, coming to me to say that he had it on good authority that if I went to the senate with my documents, I would be removed, investigated and imprisoned.
“Then I said, why would I be imprisoned, and he said, you know, you’ve worked in government. I have worked in government, if people really want to find something on you, in the central bank, five years, they would come and look, they would find something.
“I was like they would find it if I have done it. I mean they can plant something, but if haven’t done it, maybe somebody under me had done something that I wasn’t aware of.
“But in all my years at the central bank, to the best of my knowledge, I had done nothing that should put me in prison. However, I said to him, tell the president, from me, that if the punishment for going to the senate is prison, he doesn’t need to go through all of that, just ask him to tell me what prison he wants me to go to and for how many years, I’d drive myself there.”
Culled from The Cable