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Wikileaks: More drama as Turai, Aondoaaka, others in bribery scandal

Turai Yar'adua

Wife of Late Umaru Yar’adua, former Nigeria president, Lady Hajia Turai Yar’adua and two others are alleged to have taken millions of dollars as bribe on all tankers exporting oil from Nigeria. According to the American state Department cables leaked by online whistleblower, Wikileaks, the other two people are former Chief Economic Adviser, Tanimu Yakubu and former Group MD of NNPC, Lawal Yar’adua. Also, former Attorney General and Minister of Justice Michael Kaase Aondoaaka allegedly told a visitor that he would only sign a document if he was given about N300m immediately, with another N270m to be paid to him the next day.

The cables emerged from discussions held in Abuja on 27th January 2009 between former American Ambassador to Nigeria, Robin Sanders and Shell Petroleum Corporation’s Regional Executive VP for Africa, Ms Ann Pickard with Shell’s Government Relations Representative, Peter Francis also present at the meeting.

Ms Pickard told Ms Sanders that corruption in the Nigerian oil sector was worsening by the day, and that “very interesting people” who were not in the oil industry were lifting oil cargoes.

President Goodluck Jonathan

According to another cable sent to Washington by Ambassador Sanders, then Acting President Goodluck Jonathan told her last February that he would not stand in the 2011 presidential elections, saying he only wanted to put in place the structure for national elections. He however added that “if they want me to run, that will be something to consider at that time.”

Jonathan also told the American envoy that PDP chose him as President Umaru Yar’adua’s running mate because he was from the Niger Delta area. He said, “I was not chosen to be vice president because I had good political experience. I did not. There were a lot more qualified people around to be vice president, but that does not mean I am not my own man.”

Jonathan also described a mid-February meeting of the Federal cabinet as “disastrous,” saying there was “yelling and screaming” at the meeting and that the cabinet was totally dysfunctional. His plans to dissolve it on February 24 were however aborted by Yar’adua’s sneak return to the country that morning, he told Sanders.

In the same despatch to Washington, Sanders reported that Jonathan told her he blamed the political crisis following Yar’adua’s hospitalisation to four people: Turai Yar’adua, Chief Security Officer Yusuf Mohamed Tilde, ADC Col Mustapha Onoedieva and Chief Economic Adviser Tanimu Yakubu. He also said then Agriculture Minister Abba Sayyadi Ruma and then FCT Minister Mohamed Adamu Aliero were providing a second tier to the bubble.

Jonathan also revealed in the cables that former military ruler general Abdulsalami Abubakar, who he described as one of his closest advisers, was attempting to involve other former rulers to convince the Yar’adua family to get the ailing president to resign. He said that would be easier than getting the cabinet to pass a resolution declaring Yar’adua to be medically incapacitated.

According to the leaked cables, the American ambassador put pressure on Jonathan to sack INEC chairman Professor Maurice Iwu. She said US technical assistance for Nigeria’s elections cannot continue unless Iwu was removed. She also urged Jonathan to distance himself from former president Olusegun Obasanjo, of who he was said to be a surrogate, and to end perceptions of himself as a local regional leader. Jonathan promised her that he would do so.

Yet another leaked American cable reported that an unnamed Kano-based real estate developer and “long-time Mission contact” told the Americans that Yar’adua’s associate Alhaji Dahiru Mangal smuggled illicit items into Nigeria.

The contacts however said that Mangal ceased his illegal activities when Yar’adua appointed him a special adviser.

The American cable also described a man who approached another person in a car with a State House plate number and asked for a N250 million bribe on behalf of Hajia Turai Yar’adua. The envoy however said there was no evidence to prove that Turai sent the man.