Counsel to the Chief of Army Staff, Lt. Gen. Tukur Buratai has cautioned critics over the Dubai property scandal involving his client, saying the army chief has been cleared any wrongdoing by the Code of Conduct Bureau. Buratai has been under heavy criticism in the past weeks when the news of some properties, worth $1.5 million, he owns in Dubai was made public, with critics accusing him of purchasing the assets with stolen funds.
In his defense, the Army had in a statement claimed that Buratai acquired the properties with his personal savings, which deepened the suspicion – as many queried how he could save such sums of money with his legitimate earnings. In a statement issued by his (Buratai) lawyer, Ugochukwu Osuagwu, advised critics to respect the Army chief’s rights to private family life as guaranteed in Section 34 of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (as amended).
According to a document Punch obtained from the CCB, Buratai was said to have indicated in his asset declaration Form, which was submitted on August 21, 2015, that the properties in Dubai belong to his wife. Osuagwu stressed that the controversial property was not acquired after he became the chief of army staff to warrant the invocation of Section 15 (3) of the CCB Act. He said:
“We view the further attempt by some select few to still dwell on this same Dubai properties and criticise the COAS as a veiled attempt to divert his attention from the current war he is waging to secure the country in various troubled spots in Nigeria.”
“Critics are therefore advised to respect the General’s right to private family life as guaranteed under Section 34 of the 1999 Constitution of Nigeria (As Amended) and construct their views within the ambit of the rule of law having been duly cleared by the CCB.”
“The COAS complied with Section 15(1) of the Act and included his spouse’s assets in his declarations. That is what the law requires of him and he did not disappoint. The COAS acted lawfully and has not breached any law.”
The lawyer further said his firm, in a letter dated June 29, 2016, requested the CCB to clear the air over the said Dubai properties. According to him, in CCB’s reply letter, signed by Mrs. Ijeanuli Arinze Ofor, on behalf of the CCB’s chairman, Mr. Sam Saba, it confirmed that Buratai declared the Dubai assets after his appointment as the Chief of Army Staff.
“Without much delay, the CCB responded in its letter dated July 11, 2016, and stated clearly from the asset declaration filed by General Buratai that the said property was duly filed by the Army General and in the spouse’s name,” Osuagwu added.”
“Having so declared the property as required of him by law, the Chief of Army Staff has discharged the duty placed on him by the 5th Schedule of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria and the CCB and Tribunal Act.”
However, prominent individuals and groups alike, including human rights lawyer, Femi Falana have called for the resignation of the army chief and pressured PresidentMuhammadu Buhari to sack him if he fails to quit voluntariy.