The European Union (EU) has denied giving Pres. Olussegun Obasanjo a clean bill of health concerning allegations of corruption made against him. In October, Thisday newspaper carried a story which claimed that the EU stated that Pres. Obasanjo did not have any foreign bank accounts.
Following Thisday’s story, Sowore Omoyele (one of the authors of this article) wrote a letter to the EU President Jose Barosso asking for clarifications on October 18, 2005. In it, Omoyele wanted to learn from the EU how they arrived at their conclusions, as stated:
“We all agree that corruption and graft is Africa’s greatest enemy towards growth and meaningful development, it is a welcome development that the EU is taking a proactive stance on corruption.
However, if your office is making political or diplomatic statements about African leaders, in a manner reminiscent of the Cold War era, it will be a let down to the rest of Africans who look forward to the institution you represent for hope and support as they struggle with hunger, poverty and misery created by mismanagement and official graft”.
The EU, through Amadeu Altafaj, wrote a response to Omoyele’s letter and described the Thisday story as “not only misleading but also contains several mistakes and false quotes.” Providing context to the story, Altafaj, who says some false quotes were attributed to him, told Omoyele, “The author of this article participated in October on series of meetings with European Commission (EC) officials with other African journalists. The Presentations were focused on the EU strategy for Africa recently proposed by the Commission, the increase of Development Aid as agreed by the Council last May and the press activities of the EC.” Responding to the issue of whether Obasanjo had foreign bank accounts, which was the subject of Kingsley Nwezeh’s article, Altafaj said, “The Commission’s position is that this is an issue essentially for the Nigerian institutions. The European Commission would be aware of such allegations if, for instance, a Court ruling or a Parliamentary report had been issued and circulated.”
Amadeau Altafaj, who is the EC spokesman for Development, denied making any statements about Pres. Obasanjo’s ownership, or lack thereof, of foreign bank accounts. He also denied commenting on the other African leaders regarding foreign bank accounts. Altafaj said that Nwezeh’s article would suggest that the EU had been investigating African leaders. The reality, he maintained, is that “The EU and the Commission have no competence to carry out such investigation.”
The Commission’s response to Sowore’s inquiry also suggested that the ‘misleading’ Thisday article is still being considered for further action. Their spokesman said, “Beyond the many mistakes and confusions to be noticed, particularly concerning to the Commission is the fact that the article contains several false quotes attributed to the spokesperson. This serious and unethical conduct by a media will be addressed consequently through the appropriate bodies.”
In reiterating the EU’s commitment to Africa, the organization said, “Any journalist who has been following EU’s Development Policy in the last year is well aware that the Commission, presided by Jos. Manuel Barroso, has shown an unprecedented commitment and leadership to enhance this policy and put a particular focus on Africa. And if there is one fundamental pillar to be mentioned in this new Development policy promoted by the Commission this is definitely good governance. Putting this into question through misleading reporting is simply outrageous.”
You may recall that in a widely circulated letter to the President, Governor Orji Kalu of Abia State accused President Obasanjo of corruption, in particular, he alleged that Obasanjo owns foreign bank accounts, as well as a “Visa Platinum” credit card.