Atiku Abubakar, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) presidential candidate, has described the recent allegation of corruption against him by his former media aide as “distraction and blackmail”.
Atiku said he is focused on winning the forthcoming election and would not allow anyone to take his eyes off the ball.
One Michael Achimugu who claimed to have worked closely with the former Vice President for years has been releasing a series of videos tagged “AtikuGate” to expose the alleged corrupt past of his former boss to educate Nigerians on the dangers of voting him as their next president.
In one of the videos, Achimugu leaked an alleged audio conversion between him and Atiku, where the PDP presidential candidate was heard admitting to setting up SPVs (special purpose vehicles) for the purpose of siphoning public funds to finance party activities and his personal interests while serving as vice president under the Olusegun Obasanjo administration.
According to Achimugu, Atiku collected N100 million from the convicted former Governor of Plateau State, Joshua Dariye, from the N1.16 billion ecological fund released to the state by the Ecological Fund Office that was being chaired by Atiku at the time.
Following Atiku’s failure to respond to the allegations, the presidential campaign organization of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) had called for the former VP’s arrest and threatened to go to court if he failed to step down from the February 25, 2023 presidential race.
But speaking on Atiku’s behalf during an Arise TV interview monitored by THE WHISTLER on Wednesday, Daniel Bwala, spokesperson for the PDP campaign council, said his principal will not glorify Achimugu and his alleged sponsors by responding to the allegation.
“He (Atiku) will not respond to a baseless distraction ahead of the election. We are making our case to the Nigerian people for election. And in which case, if the people believe in that blackmail, they will express that at the poll,” Bwala told Arise TV.
When asked if the voice in the leaked audio was that of his boss, Bwala said “I am not in a position at the moment to deny or confirm that it is the voice of Atiku Abubakar. But what I did and I’ve been doing is that I play the devil’s advocate.
“In the worst-case scenario, even if is the voice of Atiku Abubakar, the question I have asked is that in that communication is the law breached? In that communication, is there an infraction? And then you deal with the substance of the case.
“The only thing that they said in that press statement and wrote in their baseless letter is that in the communication (the leaked phone call), Atiku Abubakar said he floated an SPV (special purpose vehicles) and the SPVs were used in financing the political party’s activities. They tried to say, in all their social media, that SPV is a corrupt practice and so I said that is expression of ignorance.”
Defending Atiku, Bwala said “SPV is a concept in corporate governance of developing or creating a separate entity from an organization or entity by the business venture, where the SPV manages risk.
“SPV is not unlawful (and) not illegal except if the SPV commits illegal acts. So, if Atiku Abubakar said there was an SPV created, where we have consultants (that) when they get a job, they make remittance of support to the party…unless if you can show that crime has been committed, there is no evidence to suggest that in this given scenario that crime has been committed.
“And Atiku said in that very communication (leaked phone call) that this case has been reported to the EFCC, they have thoroughly investigated it and there is no evidence of a wrongdoing.”
The PDP campaign spokesperson further attacked Festus Keyamo, a spokesperson for the APC presidential campaign council, over his call for Atiku’s arrest and disqualification from the forthcoming election.
“…pantaphobia, what it does is that it distorts your rational thinking, it tends to give you the sudden anxiety where a Senior Advocate would behave like a first-year law student or a professor of law will behave like somebody who is trying to gain admission into school,” he said.
THE WHISTLER earlier reported that Marine Float Limited, one of the phony companies (SPVs) said to have been used by Atiku to divert public funds during the Obasanjo administration between 1999 to 2007, operated illegally as it was not registered as a body corporate until 2017.