Weapons Haram: A Pastor, a Jet, Israel and $10m – By: Bala Muhammad

Imagine this scenario: “A private jet belonging to the Sultan of Sokoto [though he hasn’t as yet got one] has been impounded in South Africa laden with undeclared cash to the tune of almost $10m. Also arrested were two Nigerians and a Saudi Arabian citizen. The arrested trio said they were in South Africa topurchase arms…The Sultan of Sokoto is the leader of Nigeria’s Muslim community and President of the country’s influential Nigerian Supreme Council on Islamic Affairs (NSCIA)…”

Just imagine the frenzy, the abuse, the castigation, the condemnation a section of this country’s media and public commentariat would scramble to if this were what happened. The story would have been a real BANG!

However, the story happens to be the direct opposite:

“A private jet belonging to Pastor Ayo Oritsejafor has been impounded in South Africa laden with undeclared cash to the tune of almost $10m. Also arrested were two Nigerians and an Israeli citizen. The arrested trio said they were in South Africa to purchase arms…The Pastor is the leader of Nigeria’s Christian community and President of the country’s influential Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN)…”

The reaction, as can be imagined, is most definitely a WHIMPER, compared to the BANG that would have erupted were the first scenario the case. Suddenly, all those loud-mouthed Civil Society Organisations and Non-Governmental Organisations and Human Rights Organisations and other loquacious vipers have lost their venomous voices!

Where is the Justice? Where is the Conscience? Where is the Patriotism? All seem to have flown through the wide Nigerian window, as they were hot air in the first place! Imagine if it were the first scenario! And then consider some shameless, feather-weight Ebolic justifications from the likes of that pretender, Femi Fani-Kayode:

“Much ado has been made about recent events in South Africa concerning the Nigerian-owned jet that was found loaded with millions of dollars and that was in the process of procuring arms…As a former Minister of Aviation, I wish to assure the general public that the flying of large sums of cash by security and intelligence agencies for the purchase of arms in a time of war and conflict is something that is quite normal and that it happens quite often. As a matter of fact, it has happened under successive Nigerian governments, both military and civilian…”

Hear! Hear!! Assurance indeed! “…something that is quite normal” indeed! But just imagine what this irritating former opposition politician and now member of the ruling party would have said were the situation as narrated in the first scenario. The castigation, the abuse, the maligning…

And then this one from the Chairman of the Pentecostal Fellowship of Nigeria (PFN), Cross River State chapter, Bishop Emmah Isong:

“I want to say here that people should not use the name of an elevated Christian leader, number one Christian leader to play politics. Christians will react if they continue to do this because we will not want a spiritual leader to be castigated. It is infuriating; it is rather a security risk to carry this kind of news. We are warning anybody who is perpetuating this lie to desist from it because we will show very serious concern that some people will not like…The $9.3million dollars found in pastors Oritsejafor’s jet is a political lie from the opponents of Mr. President who are presuming that Papa Ayo may become the arrow head to mobilise support for our wonderful President Goodluck Ebele Jonathan…”

Wonderful Papa Ayo! Wonderful President indeed!!

But despite the Federal Government’s attempt to cover-up this scandal and protect the accused (as has been the habit of this ruling party in all its throughout its scandalous history), the South Africans are proving that their country, unlike “the Biggest Economy in Africa” is not a Banana Republic. According to a Punch newspaper report this Friday:

“There are strong indications that efforts of the Federal Government to ensure amicable settlement of issues surrounding the $9.3m seized by South Africa have failed. South Africa’s National Prosecuting Authority [NPA], in an email to our correspondent in Abuja on Thursday, said that the matter was still under criminal investigations…South Africa’s NPA’s spokesman, Nathi Mncube, in a response to [Punch] enquiry said: ‘The matter is under criminal investigations by the Directorate of Priority Crimes of Investigations unit at South African Police Services…’”

This Column, therefore, subscribes to the following couple of opinions:

The first is by Muslim Rights Concern (MURIC). This Lagos-based Islamic civil society organisation led by Professor Ishaq Akintola describes as a grand conspiracy against Nigerian Muslims the claim by the Federal Government that it owns the $9.3 million. MURIC insists that the Government’s claim shows it is being economical with the truth.

“We have every reason to reject Federal Government’s explanation and it is hereby rejected. Nigerian Muslims are enveloped with apprehension. All the ingredients of a plot are here for those who care to look beyond their noses. In a country in which two religions are most prominent and are hot rivals of each other, here is the national leader of a religious group who also happens to be the President’s kinsman, an undisguised Muslim hater, a man with a belligerent disposition towards his Muslim neighbours, a man who has been threatening hell and brimstone over the Boko Haram saga, being covered by Government. Tie this to the Israeli connection, a country well known for its anti-Muslim and mass murder propensities.”

“It raises more questions than answers. For instance, was the intended arms purchase really meant for the Nigerian Armed Forces? What is the guarantee that it was not meant for Niger Delta militants, or Christian crusaders masquerading as Boko Haram? After all, under-the-table assistance for Boko Haram has been noticed in the past. Where did the alleged arms and food drops for Boko Haram by helicopters come from? Only the Israelis are capable of doing that,” MURIC asked.

The second opinion is from a so-called Islamic City Project Global Foundation (an Internet-based Forum) which wants Nigerian Muslims to ensure that the CAN president’s saga is not buried, as it would be foolish for Muslims to allow an incident of this magnitude to be swept under the carpet as the Federal Government is trying to do. The Forum believes posterity will never forgive our Muslim leaders if this issue is allowed to die like that.

The Forum further asks the following questions:
If, as claimed, that the jet was on lease, who authorised Pastor Ayo to operate commercial flights with his private jet since he knows the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA) rule that owners of private jets [as they are stupendously rich enough to afford the plane in the first place] can only carry family and friends;

Who authorised the loading of almost $10 million on this jet at a Nigerian airport? Where were the Nigerian Customs authorities who ask and frisk passengers to declare sums in excess of a few thousand dollars?;

Where is the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) that this hefty amount can be moved without their knowledge? Or was this transaction cleared by the same alleged CBN insider who facilitates the funding and financing of Boko Haram, as claimed by Australian negotiator Reverend Stephen Davis?

What, exactly, were those weapons intended for, considering there was an Israeli citizen on the ‘mission’ and Reverend Davis has pointed fingers at (interestingly) some highly-placed non-Muslim retired military top brass with close contact with Israel and its military/security industry?