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South, M’Belt leaders ask British lawmaker to prove graft claim against Gowon

By Seye Olumide (Lagos) and Njadvara Musa (Maiduguri)
01 December 2020   |   4:17 am
The Southern and Middle Belt Leaders Forum (SMBLF) has called on the British Parliament to compel chairman of its Foreign Relations Committee, Tom Turgendhat, to substantiate...

Yakubu Gowon .PHOTO: KOLA SULAIMON/AFP/Getty Images)

•Ex-presidential adviser charges FG, CBN to react
The Southern and Middle Belt Leaders Forum (SMBLF) has called on the British Parliament to compel chairman of its Foreign Relations Committee, Tom Turgendhat, to substantiate the corruption allegation he levelled against former Head of State, Gen. Yakubu Gowon (rtd) and provide details on how the ex- leader allegedly looted half of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) while in office.

In a statement yesterday by Chief Edwin K Clark (South South), Chief Ayo Adebanjo (South West), Chief John Nwodo (South East) and Dr. Pogu Bitrus (Middle Belt), the elders said while they stood for holding leaders accountable for their stewardship, “we will not support maligning people without facts.”

They added: “We stand for integrity in public life and will not shield corruption. But we are not aware of any such accusation against Gen. Gowon since he was overthrown 45 years ago. We therefore call on the British lawmaker who was born a year after the coup of 1975 in Nigeria to check the facts again and do the needful if he was wrong or back up the allegation if he has any evidence to retain his credibility and the institutional integrity of the British Parliament.”

ALSO, erstwhile Special Adviser on National Assembly Matters to ex-President Goodluck Jonathan, Senator Mohammed Abba Aji, charged the Federal Government and the apex bank to react to the claim.

Addressing reporters yesterday in Maiduguri, Aji said the elder statesman, who had “worked tirelessly in uniting this country to become one nation, deserves to be protected against this baseless allegation.”

He wondered why the Nigerian media “amplified such an unsubstantiated allegation from a British parliamentarian.”

Aji, who is also secretary of North East Governors Forum, regretted that Gowon, aged 86, was reportedly abandoned to defend himself all alone.

His words: “I was terribly disturbed when I saw a baseless allegation levelled against our former Head of State, General Yakubu Gowon (rtd) by one alien parliamentarian gaining unwarranted grounds in our country.

“General Gowon became Head of State at the age of barely 40, and he spent all his energy uniting this country by pulling us out of the civil war.

“Gowon had a very challenging regime, because at a point, all the regions, including the north where he hails from, were agitating for secession. But he was the only one that became the matrix that united this country.”

He went on: “Even when Gowon was toppled, he did not resist, instead, he was appealing for calm.

“I am really surprised to see someone like Tom Tugendhat, a member of the British Parliament and chairman of its Foreign Relations Committee, raising such an unsubstantiated allegation on the floor of the parliament against one of our best and most respected Heads of State, General Gowon, alleging that this gentleman left with half of the CBN without tendering documents to prove the claim.”