Nigeria: Ex-adviser charged in $2.1 billion arms scandal

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LAGOS, Nigeria (AP) — Nigeria's former national security adviser pleaded innocent Monday to embezzling $2.1 billion meant to purchase arms to fight Boko Haram, and said some of the money was diverted on the then-president's order to try to get himself re-elected.

The former senior security official, Sambo Dasuki, said that part of the money — $47 million — was withdrawn from the Central Bank on then President Goodluck Jonathan's orders to pay delegates to nominate him to run for re-election as his party's candidate. Dasuki's allegation was submitted in a written statement before he was charged at the Federal High Court with 19 counts of money-laundering and criminal breach of trust connected to the disappearance of state funds.

Former finance director Shuaibu Salisu also pleaded not guilty. He allegedly told the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission that he collected $47 million and 5.6 million euros stuffed into 11 suitcases from the Central Bank at night and delivered it to Dasuki's home in November 2014, according to an officer at the commission. The official spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity because he is not authorized to speak to reporters.

Dasuki's statement said: "The money was exchanged (by the Central Bank) at $47 million and some euros ... The money was for delegates that attended the nomination convention for the PDP (People's Democratic Party) presidential nomination. The money was paid and sent to Hon. Dudafa and ADC (aide-de-camp) for distribution on the instruction of the president." Warripamowei Dudafa, a special assistant to Jonathan, is wanted by the commission but is "now at large," according to the charge sheet.

The party conference chose Jonathan, who lost the election last March to former military dictator Muhammadu Buhari, in part because of Jonathan's failure to fight Boko Haram's Islamic uprising. On Jonathan's watch, the extremists took over a large swath of northeast Nigeria and held it for months before Nigerian and Chadian troops drove them out shortly before the elections.

Buhari has said thousands of people died because Nigerian troops were not adequately equipped to defend them from Boko Haram. Some 20,000 people have died in the extremists' 6-year-old insurgency.

In a related case, the High Court on Monday allowed bail equivalent to $1 million to media magnate Raymond Dokpesi of African Independent Television, who is accused of fraud for receiving $10.5 million from Dasuki's office — supposedly earmarked for weapons — to broadcast features favorable to Jonathan.

Dasuki, who had usurped the Ministry of Defense role in purchasing arms, has been detained by the crimes commission for more than a week despite a court order allowing him bail.

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