Rotimi Amaechi admits: JJ is my friend

Mr Rotimi Amaechi, the embattled Governor of Rivers State in Nigeria, has confirmed that indeed, ex-President Jerry Rawlings is his friend. The multibillionaire Governor however denied ever giving Rawlings an alarming US$3.5million of Nigerian taxpayer’s money to finance the 2008 election campaign of Ghana’s ruling National Democratic Congress (NDC).

Read also Governor Rotimi Amaechi denies sponsoring NDC campaign  

The explanation from the Nigerian Governor came at a time when dust was yet to settle over reports that he was being investigated for having misappropriated an amount of N500 billion (about $3.6 billion) and that he smuggled $3.5 million of the said amount to finance the NDC in Ghana, using Rawlings as a conduit.

Governor Amaechi, in a rebuttal, described the report as “arrant nonsense” but maintained that he had a cherished friendship with Jerry Rawlings- a relationship which Amaechi said he had no regrets about but insisted that he had nothing to do with financing the 2008 elections in Ghana in anyway.

Vexed with, the online media house that broke the story, Governor Amaechi charged at the publishers: “They have no respect for people who have made their mark in the world of transparency like Flt. Lt. J.J. Rawlings. “I am sure the publisher would have been in the primary school when Flt. Lt. J.J. Rawlings became President of Ghana.

I wish to reiterate that the respected J.J. Rawlings has no business dealings with me nor did I fund the Ghanaian election in anyway. However, I cherish his friendship and have no regrets.”

The Governor said the entire money Rivers State had received since he took office was way below the alleged N500billion and thus, it was illogical to claim he was being accused of having misappropriated an amount of money higher  than what the state was given.

David Iyorfor, Spokesperson for Governor Amaechi, who travelled all the way from Nigeria to debunk the story in Ghana, told DAILY GUIDE that the fact that his boss once stayed in Ghana for nine months did not mean he was staying with Jerry Rawlings as had been reported.

He said when the story broke Amaechi and Rawlings spoke on phone and laughed it off. David Iyorfor however did not tell which one of the two politicians called the other.

“Why does it matter who called who? What matters is that they talked on phone and laughed it off because it is not true,” he stated.

Iyorfor explained that Amaechi had to stay in Ghana under cover at a time he had reason to believe his life was not safe in Nigeria. He disclosed that the Rivers State Governor was then battling his political rivals in court and as part of his security precautions, had to stay in Ghana throughout the entire trial period.

“It is so simple to cross check from the Federal Ministry of Finance and the Rivers State Ministry of Finance to know how much money was given to us and you would realize it is not up to what they claim the Hon. Governor had misappropriated.

“The allegation is a weighty one that can affect diplomatic relationships between the two countries and I dare the accusers to produce the so-called evidence they claim they have. Since they claim the money was given to Rawlings in the form of a bank cheque, I wonder why they are not producing the bank account, which bank the money was cashed in and on which date, so we can all investigate.”

When asked his views on why such an allegation would be made against Governor Rotimi, David Iyorfor had this to say: “Amaechi is a politician and I don’t know about Ghana but the Nigerian politician is an endangered specie and there is always one negative story, petition or complaint about them. We are convinced this is one of those stories.

“Governor Amaechi would not contribute to financing a political party in Ghana when he knows very well that both countries have laws that forbid such acts.

Amaechi is a man of integrity and I dare those making the allegations to pipe down and apologize or prove their case.”

Read also Governor Rotimi Amaechi denies sponsoring NDC campaign

By Halifax Ansah-Addo