Former President Goodluck Jonathan on Thursday said he did not grant any approval for the construction of an armoury to former Ogun State Governor, Ibikunle Amosun, or any governor during his presidential term between 2010 and 2015.
“I am not aware of any approval (to build an armoury to stockpile weapons),” Mr Jonathan told PREMIUM TIMES Thursday afternoon through a close associate, who was a minister in his administration.
He advised this newspaper to further confirm from former National Security Adviser, Sambo Dasuki, that no such approval was granted.
Mr Dasuki has in the past four years been in the custody of the State Security Service (SSS) and this newspaper was unable to directly contact him. But a former director at the office of the National Security Adviser, who worked closely with Mr Dasuki during Mr Jonathan’s era, said no such approval was given during Mr Dasuki’s tenure.
“Oga (NSA Dasuki) did not grant anyone approval to build an armoury,” the former official said. He asked not to be named so as not to be victimised by the current administration.
“Maintaining an armoury in Government House is an illegal activity, and we did not approve any such request during our time. We did not permit any governor to store arms and ammunition.
“If he is insisting there was an approval granted him for his armoury, we challenge him to make the documentation public.”
Mr Jonathan was Nigeria’s president at a time of heightened insecurity, during which the Boko Haram sect became a full-blown danger to Nigeria’s corporate existence.
The Jonathan administration was preoccupied with containing Boko Haram and other manifestations of insecurity under his tenure, and Mr Amosun, as an opposition politician, would have raised a red flag if he sought to purchase weapons and stockpile them at his official residence.
While struggling to extricate himself from a PREMIUM TIMES story about how he stockpiled sophisticated arms and ammunition at Ogun State Government House, Abeokuta — in a blatant violation of Nigeria’s Firearms Act — Mr Amosun had claimed that he received permission from Mr Jonathan to import weapons and stockpile them for security purposes.
PREMIUM TIMES had reported on Monday night that Mr Amosun stored arms and ammunition for a long period at his official residence when he was governor. The politician, now a senator, called the police commissioner, Bashir Makama, and hurriedly handed over the weapons to him a day before he left office on May 28.
National security officials found Mr Amosun’s action particularly troubling and illegal, expressing further dismay that the country’s security architecture failed to detect such a massive cache of arms and ammunition for such a long time.
In his defence Tuesday night, Mr Amosun denied keeping the AK47 in his residence, but admitted he had the ammunition and armoured personnel carrier in his possession until his last day in office and seven years after he supposedly procured them for the police.
He said he stored the weapons in a “designated armoury” at the Government House.
Still, the Firearms Act and other extant firearms regulations absolutely prohibit possession of the type of bullets and armoured personnel carrier — all categorised as controlled equipment — that Mr Amosun admitted handing over to Mr Makama on his last day in office.
The law grants the president exclusive powers to authorise establishment of armouries, and now Mr Jonathan, who was the president at the time, had said there was no such approval for Mr Amosun or any state governor throughout his tenure.
Outraged Nigerians immediately called on security agencies to swoop on Mr Amosun and ensure he was thoroughly prosecuted, but security chiefs have been reluctant to take action.
On Wednesday, PREMIUM TIMES raised 10 questions for Mr Amosun that bordered largely on the illegality of his arms stockpile, but the former governor has not responded.
Rotimi Durojaiye, a spokesperson for Mr Amosun, did not immediately return PREMIUM TIMES e-mail seeking comments about Mr Jonathan’s position on Thursday evening. Mr Amosun himself repeatedly disconnected telephone calls from PREMIUM TIMES.
On Thursday afternoon, Chidi Odinkalu, an expert on security matter, also raised further observations about how Mr Amosun might have endangered the lives of those who visited the Government House during his tenure.
“There are basic rules for storage of firearms on this scale,” Mr Odinkalu said. “Do you know how many people visited the Ogun State Government House in the past seven and a half years? How many of them knew they were visiting an armoury and how many would have gone if they knew they were visiting an armoury.
“There is a reason why firearms on this scale have to be stored under strict rules in armouries away from civilian populations – because they are very delicate and could go off spontaneously with serious injuries to human life.
“You recall the Ikeja Cantonment explosions 18 years ago? Even if everything Mr Amosun says is true, who permitted him to convert the Government House into an armoury?
“”He also seems to suggest that he had a monopoly of capacity to oversee and monitor the distribution of and access to these firearms. What was he – a feudal lord?
“The fact that he eventually handed over this stuff to the police the day before he left office showed that he did not in fact need to do what he did. Which then raises the question why did he do it?
“This leads us to the third point. Mr Amosun is not the last governor of Ogun. If he could monopolise custody of firearms in the Government House, then, surely, that prerogative should also be open to his successor.
“But he acted to ensure his successor did not discover the firearms or have access to them the same way that he did. The reason is obvious: if his successor had gone into the Government House and found that it was an armoury, there would have been a massive stink like you have not known before.
“So, by this process of induction, it is easy to see that the reasons of Mr Amosun were far from sanguine or altruistic. Surely he has serious questions to answer. It is really that simple.”