Bala Mohammed, a minister of the federal capital territory (FCT) under ex-President Goodluck Jonathan, says none of his former colleagues has been subjected to scrutiny like him.
The former minister is standing trial bordering on alleged abuse of office, false declaration of assets and a N864 million fraud before an FCT high court.
There were media reports that a federal high court approved the application of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) for interim forfeiture of 14 property linked to him and which the EFCC said are suspected to have been acquired from proceeds of unlawful activity.
However, the former minister described the reports and similar ones as false, alleging that he is being subjected to “the most vicious campaign of calumny”.
In a statement on Monday, he said the reports on the temporary forfeiture order amounts to “unduly sensationalising a matter that is yet to run its full judicial course.”
Mohammed said while he supports the current anti-graft campaign, it should never be applied as “a licence for scurrilous charges against people or for media conviction of the accused”.
“In the present case, some of the houses in contention do not belong to Senator Bala Mohammed. Yet, it is misleading to suggest that their owners do not exist. In at least one instance, the property has been returned to the rightful owner while others have initiated steps to recover their properties that were wrongly seized by the EFCC,” Mohammed said in the statement which Emma Agu, his spokesman, issued on his behalf.
“Besides, it is also important to challenge and debunk the unsustainable impression being created that Senator Bala Mohammed does not have the right to acquire and/or own property anywhere in Nigeria. To make heavy weather of his ownership of some houses is mischievous and completely untenable.
“What even makes the demonization of the minister particularly untenable is that, so far, there is no record of any loss of funds at the FCT under his tenure. He has not been indicted for stealing any money, and there is also no record that the FCT is looking for any missing funds.
“It is a fact that no other minister that served in the cabinet of President Goodluck Jonathan has been so exposed to the searchlight of anti-graft agencies as senator Bala Mohammed.
“The former minister has been vilified in the media without success; he has been detained and interrogated by the EFCC to no end; he has faced three public hearings at the national assembly, a body he served with distinction and even spearheaded the motion to stave off a looming political disaster in 2010, culminating in the emergence of Goodluck Jonathan as president.
“Senator Bala Mohammed avows solemnly that he never stole any money while he was minister and therefore has not returned or refunded any monies to the federal government. He challenges anybody with evidence of such a refund to come forward with it or let his adversaries shut their mouths henceforth.”