The office of the National Security Adviser, Sambo Dasuki, has been fingered in the bungled arms purchase deal that involved two yet-to-identified Nigerians and an Abuja-based Israeli man, Eyal Mesika. In a series of interviews, Nigerian security sources told SaharaReporters that the men caught in South Africa with cash of close to $10 million had ties to the NSA’s office.
The Nigerian government has maintained a curious silence since the scandal broke onSeptember 5 when South African law enforcement agents confiscated $9.3 million from two Nigerian private jets that landed at Lanseria Airport in Johannesburg. However, a source in the Presidency told SaharaReporters that the government had reached out to South Africa and explained that the arms purchase deal had Abuja’s official approval. Despite such assurances, the deal has continued to raise dust and trigger questions.
A source in Abuja said some intelligence professionals were questioning the propriety of using cash and secretive means to purchase weapons. “The use of raw cash by government to buy weapons abroad is not appropriate. Look at all the embarrassment now,” said the source. “It’s the kind of system used by criminals and shady organizations,” he added.
SaharaReporters reached Mr. Mesika by phone today in Abuja, but he said he had no intention of speaking about the gun purchase affair. He claimed that his trip to South Africa was to buy a “private helicopter,” but declined to answer further questions put to him by our reporter.
Court documents filed by South African prosecutors in order to obtain a freeze order for the cash differ from Mr. Mesika’s account.
A spokesman for South Africa’s National Prosecuting Authority disclosed that the country’s investigators found the Nigerian arms buyers with invoices from two South African firms called Tier One and ESD. The invoices were for armaments and a helicopter.
According to South Africa’s CityPress, “In court papers, the NPA submitted evidence that Tier One is not registered with the National Conventional Arms Control Committee and is thus not authorized to enter into any agreements regarding the sale and/or rental of military equipment.”
The paper further revealed, “The agreement between Tier One and ESD was concluded on September 8, three days after the money was seized at Lanseria.”
Meanwhile Pastor Ayo Oritsejafor, whose private jet was used in the transactions, has admitted to owning the Bombardier Challenger 600 jet used in ferrying cash to South Africa. Mike Awe, a media representative for the flamboyant pastor, who is also the president of the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN), spoke toSaharaReporters and confirmed that the jet belongs to Mr. Oritsejafor. “I can confirm to you that Pastor Ayo Oritsejafor owns the jet,” Mr. Awe said in a phone conversation with SaharaReporters.
Mr. Awe said Mr. Oritsejafor was currently indisposed, adding that the pastor, who is a close confidant of President Goodluck Jonathan, had leased the jet to a third party company for use in air jet charters. He said Mr. Oritsejafor did not personally have knowledge of the trip to South Africa.
Mr. Oritsejafor’s ownership of the jet has raised several questions. One is that the plane seized by South African officials is actually registered in the US for use only as a private jet, not for commercial purposes. Another issue is whether Pastor Oritsejafor owns more than one jet. In 2012, members of his congregation presented him with the gift of a jet. However, the registration number of the jet detained by South African authorities differs from the registration details for the jet purchased by Mr. Oritsejafor’s congregants.In response to criticism of his acquisition of a private jet, the pastor had argued that he needed the jet to enable him to travel widely for events related to his ministry. The question then is whether the commercial leasing of a private jet is part of Mr. Oritsejafor’s ministry.
Mr. Awe was unable to respond to whether the pastor owns more than one jet. He stated that he could not reach Mr. Oritsejafor for clarification of the matter.