FORMER head of state General Yakubu Gowon has responded to allegations that brought half of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) to London with him when he was in office between 1966 and 1975.
On November 23, the UK House of Commons debated the Lekki Toll Gate massacre, with members of Parliament demanding that tough sanctions be brought against anyone responsible for these killings. James Duddridge MP, the minister for Africa at the Foreign Office was not present in person but his representative said he had spoken to the Nigerian government about the matter and a statement shall be issued on what shall be done next.
During the debate, MPs called on the British government to apply sanctions against the Nigerian government and officials over the Lekki incident. MPs pointed out that the shooting of unarmed protesters at the Lekki Toll Gate gave rise to the outbreak of violence across Nigeria and are now waiting for the outcome of investigations by the federal and state governments into reports of police brutality and extra-judicial killings.
Adding fuel to the debate, Tom Tugendhat, the Member of Parliament for Tonbridge and Malling alleged that General Gowon brought half of the CBN to him when he was in office. Pointing out that such corruption has pervaded Nigeria ever since, Mr Tugendhat added that it was such mismanagement that fuelled the #EndSARS crisis.
Mr Tugendhat said: “We know that today, even now, in this great city of ours, there are, sadly, some people who have taken from the Nigerian people and hidden their ill-gotten gains here.”
However, in an interview with the BBC, General Gowon described the allegations as rubbish. He added: “What the MP said is rubbish. I don’t know where he got that rubbish from.
“I served Nigeria diligently and my records are there for all to see. I did not want to speak on this issue because people that know me know that what the MP said is not true.”
General Gowon was overthrown in a military coup in 1975 when he was attending an Organisation of African Union summit in Kampala. Not planning to leave office, he did not make any allowance for retirement and General Gowon did not even have a personal residence when he left office.
His current home in Jos was built for him by the Plateau State government upon his return to Nigeria in the 1990s. In contract, other generals who governed Nigeria like Ibrahim Babangida, Sani Abacha and Abdulsalam Abubakar left office as billionaires.