President Goodluck Jonathan on Thursday denied meeting a Hezbollah agent, Hussein Hajj, inside the Presidential Villa, as alleged by three Lebanesesuspects standing trial for terrorism and importingweapons into Nigeria.
The suspects – Mustapha Fawaz, Talal Roda and Abdulla Tahini – had told a Federal High Court in Abuja on June 21 that Jonathan also shook hands with the Hezbollah member.
They tendered pictures of the said meeting through their lawyer, Mr. Ahmed Raji (SAN).
However, Jonathan said the suspects’ claim should be regarded as “senseless.”
Special Adviser to the President on Media and Publicity, Dr. Reuben Abati, who spoke on behalf of Jonathan, said there was no connection between the case and the suspects’ claims.
Abati said it was normal for the President to shake hands with people, inside or outside Villa, adding that people do not wear tags that identify them as terrorists.
Abati said, “I really don’t see the connection between the case in court and somebody shaking hands with the President. In any case in court, there are certain facts that are admissible and there are certain facts that are inadmissible.
“Those issues that are inadmissible are issues that have no connection whatsoever with the case. A man is in court for acts related to terrorism and he is talking about a handshake. The fellow should be asked ‘what has that got to do with the case? How does that prove his innocence?’
“If he said that the President shook hands with somebody, he should say when, where, how, under what circumstances? He has an allegation he has to answer to and he is raising another allegation that has no connection with the case.”
In addition, Abati described the allegation as an attempt by the suspects to confuse the court and divert it’s attention away from the matter before it, saying such should not be entertained by any court of law.
However, the Congress for Progressive Change, while reacting to the suspects’ allegation, described Jonathan as a leader, who could do anything to satisfy his agenda.
In a telephone conversation with Saturday PUNCH, the party’s spokesperson, Mr. Rotimi Fashakin, said, “All he (Jonathan) has always tried to do is to set the Nigerian people against a perceived adversary so that he will look good in the eyes of the public.
“So, he may shake hands with a Hezbollah member in the dark and go ahead to arrest them in daylight to make it look like the security problem in the country is from the North.
“The October 1 Independence Day bombing, he made it seem like that until events later proved that wrong.”
In his reaction, the Publicity Secretary of the Save Nigeria Group, Mr. Yinka Odumakin, said the suspects’ allegation had nothing to do with their case, however, he said there were lessons to be drawn from the situation.
Odumakin appealed to Jonathan to reduce the rate at which he “frolics” with businessmen, describing the Presidency as a delicate seat.
He said, “The lesson he (Jonathan) must take away is that the rate at which he’s frolicking with businessmen is too much. People of dubious character will want to take photographs with the President and he should know that his office is too powerful and that issues like this will always embarrass the Office of the President.”