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$5.7m scandal threatens Nigeria, South Africa relations

There are strong indications that the decision of
the South African authorities to seize the $5.7m
involved in a botched arms purchase deal
between a Nigerian Company, Societe D’
Equipment Internationaux, and a South African
company, Cerberus, may have done severe
damage to the image of the two leading African
nations.
The $5.7m was seized by the Asset Forfeiture Unit
of the National Prosecuting Authority in the deal
which was burst by the South African National
Conventional Arms Control.
Investigation revealed that top officers of the
Federal Government were embittered that the
South Africans were carrying out a deliberate plot
to ridicule Nigeria in the international arena with
the issue of the two frustrated arms deals.
A highly placed government official, who confided
in our correspondent on Tuesday, said that the
Federal Government might be compelled to take
some tough steps to address the harsh actions of
the South Africans against the country.
The source said that operatives of an office
strategic to government operations in the country
had commenced gathering information on the
continuing aggression of South Africa to Nigeria
with a view to come up with the appropriate
response.
The source said that the South Africans went too
far by seizing the money involved in the arms deal
between legitimate two firms from the two
countries.
There were strong indications that the Federal
Government and its operatives might take
reciprocal steps which might target economic
activities between both countries negatively.
“Look, what I can tell you is that this country will
not allow the South Africans who have benefitted
so much from us to continue to act this way for
ever without a response. I think, it is now time to
call their bluff.
“How can you seize the money belonging to the
Nigerian firm in the deal between two
companies? I think that is absurd and we have
started gathering information.
“If this situation is not handled with maturity, it
could affect diplomatic relationship between the
two countries.
Indications that the botched deal and the seizure
of the $5.7m may attract the ire of the Federal
Government emerged on Monday night when the
office of the National Security Adviser defended
the deal describing it as a transaction between
two legitimate companies.
Another source said that it would not be out of
place for the Federal Government to summon the
Ambassador of South Africa in relation with the
arms deal.
The Special Assistant, Media, to the Office of the
National Security Adviser, Mr. Adekunle Karounwi,
had said in a statement on the matter that the
transaction could not be said to be illegitimate.
The NSA Office pointed that the South African had
a responsibility to ensure the provision of a
conducive business atmosphere for Nigerian
companies just as Nigeria did for South African
firms in the country.
“We want to state clearly that a business
transaction actually took place between a
legitimate company in Nigeria and another
legitimate one in South Africa through the bank.
“In the course of events, the South African
company could not perform and decided to
refund the money. What is illegitimate in this
transaction done through the bank?
“Nigeria provides the enabling environment for
South African companies like MTN, DSTV and a
host of others to do business unhindered.
It is our hope that South Africa would reciprocate
this noble gesture.
“There is no alternative, we must win the war
against insurgency, irrespective of the demeaning
activities of fifth columnists.”
When one of our correspondents contacted the
South African Ambassador to Nigeria, Mr. Lulu
Mnguni, on the issue, he said that the seizure of
monies meant for purchase of arms by his
country would not affect the existing relationship
between Nigeria and South Africa.
The envoy noted that Nigeria and South Africa
had come a long way, stressing that the spat
between the two countries over the arms
purchase debacle would not destroy the
relationship between them.
Mnguni, who said he would not comment on the
separate seizures of $9.3m and $5.7m meant for
purchase of arms by Nigeria, explained that the
incidents were being investigated by the South
African Police.
The ambassador, however, said the Police
investigation would clear the controversy around
the seizures, and reveal whether the arms deal
followed the due process or not.
He said, “Nigeria and South Africa have come a
long way, so I don’t think this incident can destroy
it. But I won’t be able to comment on the
incidents because they are under investigation by
the Police and I cannot pre-empt the
investigation.”

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