Musdapha Ilo, Maiduguri
The Presidency has denied the allegation that President Goodluck Jonathan allowed former governor of Borno State, Ali Modu Sheriff, accused of being a financier of the Boko Haram terrorist group, into his entourage on a recent trip to Ndjamena, in Chad to discuss ways to combat terrorism in the region.
A statement by the special adviser to the President, Media and Publicity, Reuben Abati, said the allegation by the All Progressive Congress, APC, is totally erroneous and unnecessary.
Abati said in keeping with his commitment to transparency and openness in the conduct of government business, names of the key members of his delegation were announced a day before his trip to Ndjamena.
They included the National Security Adviser, Sambo Dasuki, a retired colonel, Minister of Communications Technology, Omobola Johnson, Minister of State for Foreign Affairs, Nurudeen Mohammed and the director-general of National Space Research and Development Agency, Seidu Mohammed.
The Presidential aide noted that Sheriff’s name was never on the list, adding that the only other persons on the list were the President’s aides, security personnel and journalists.
Abati however admitted that Sheriff was among other Nigerians who received President Jonathan at the airport in Ndjamena but said it was mere coincidence.
“Those who associate with Senator Sheriff know that he has longstanding interests in Chad and often spends a lot of his time there. He happened to be in Ndjamena at the time of President Jonathan’s visit and joined other Nigerian residents of the Chadian capital in coming to the airport to welcome their President,” the presidential spokesman explained.
He added, “That was the full extent of his participation in the visit and it was also at Ndjamena Airport that the pictures which formed the basis of the bogus allegation of President Jonathan hobnobbing with an “accused sponsor of terrorism” were taken.”
Abati said the former governor’s presence in Chad was certainly not at President Jonathan’s instance and that he did not participate in any of the President’s discussions with President Idriss Deby of Chad or his other engagements in Ndjamena.
He said President Jonathan was fully aware of the allegation made against Sheriff by Australian investigator Stephen Davis, adding that the allegation is already being investigated by the security agencies who will make their findings known to the public in due course.
In the same vein, former commissioner for Information in Borno state, Inuwa Bwala on Thursday said Sheriff was never in the entourage of the President on his recent official visit to Chad.
Bwala, who is a political associate of the former governor said Sheriff was a resident of Njadmena.
“We wish to state that contrary to reports in some sections of the media that Former Borno state Governor, Senator Ali Modu Sheriff was on the entourage of President Goodluck Jonathan during his recent visit to the Republic of Chad, the former Governor was in Chad before the visit and was amongst many other Nigerians who received Mr President at the airport in Ndjamena,” he said.
He added, “It is necessary to clarify that Ali Sheriff is more or less a resident of N’djamena, as he has been in Chad pursuing his legitimate business since leaving office in 2011 and it was not out of place for him to receive his own president in Chad…The APC has been insensibly critical of all actions of Mr President, and has been casting aspersions on the personalities of people who left the party.”
The APC had on Tuesday accused President Jonathan of “exhibiting a shocking act of indiscretion by hobnobbing with an alleged Boko Haram sponsor, Ali Modu Sheriff, who is not known to have been investigated and cleared of the weighty allegation against him,” and had demanded an explanation for the action.