There was confusion on Saturday over the seized N13bn cash found in an apartment in Ikoyi, Lagos, which was discovered by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission.
The seizure is the subject of an ongoing investigation being conducted by Vice-President Yemi Osinbajo; the Attorney General of the Federation, Abubakar Malami (SAN); and the National Security Adviser, Babagana Monguno.
A highly reliable source told SUNDAY PUNCH that the embattled Director General of the National Intelligence Agency, Ambassador Ayo Oke, hid the over $43m from President Muhammadu Buhari and Monguno in a private apartment.
However, the NIA replied swiftly, saying that Oke mentioned the money to Monguno twice.
According to the source, while the suspended NIA boss was widely reported to have claimed that Monguno was aware of the existence of the money, the NSA only got to know, for the first time, about the existence of the money during the work of the presidential committee that audited the Defence Equipment Procurement in the Armed Forces.
The committee had observed certain payments from the Central Bank of Nigeria to the NIA and raised questions, drawing the attention of the NSA to the funds.
“The Presidential Committee on Audit of Defence Equipment Procurement, in the course of its assignment, came across an information that the NIA received a huge sum of money in early 2015 from the former president (Goodluck Jonathan).
“Based on that, the NSA carried out a preliminary investigation, during which the agency claimed the money was released for some projects aimed at commencing the NIA’s 30th anniversary. That was in January 2017,” the top government source said.
The source added that a team was constituted to ascertain the situation. The first suspicion of a potential abuse, according to the source, was noticed at this stage, especially considering the amount of money involved and the purposes stated.
“This was how the NSA and the presidency learnt of the existence of such funds. We were not told by anyone in NIA until the committee saw something, and raised a red flag,” the source noted.
He added that when Oke was compelled to explain what was happening, “he still did not inform anyone any Federal Government official or the Presidency that he kept $43m cash out of the said funds at a private apartment anywhere in Lagos or any part of the country.”
SUNDAY PUNCH also learnt that there were also instances where the Central Bank of Nigeria paid out some of the funds directly to some NIA contractors, raising questions about why the suspended NIA top gun needed to put aside such huge cash in a private apartment.
In addition, it was gathered that the projects, for which the former president approved the funds, totalling $289m, included two in Lagos whose cost was put at about $28m, which is way less than the $43m cash found in the Ikoyi apartment.
The source explained further that, as of January this year, funds for the Lagos projects had actually been released to the tune of $18m, meaning that only about $10m was left to be paid four months ago, before $43m was found in the apartment.
As the three-member committee submits its report on Wednesday, there are indications that the suspended Oke may be indicted by the panel after grilling at least seven officials of the NIA.
Another source within the presidency told one of our correspondents that some of the officials quizzed were those in the finance department of the agency.
The source said, “The panel has quizzed about seven officials of the NIA, including the suspended DG. The committee wanted to understand the workings of the agency and if it was the norm for such a huge amount of cash to be kept outside of financial institutions.”
The outcome of the probe will determine if the EFCC should continue with its investigation of the NIA or not.
The NIA, however, said it briefed President Buhari on the release of $289m by the administration of Goodluck Jonathan in April 2015, a month before his inauguration.
The NIA, in a statement, said in January 2016, Moguno was officially informed of the existence of the money in a memo.
The intelligence agency said, “We would appreciate if the media can correct the allegations that the NSA was not briefed. Please find below some details:
“The first briefing was April 2015 to the President on the state of affairs of the agency. The funds were itemised as $289m intervention fund approved and released to the agency by the (Goodluck) Jonathan administration in November 2014.
“The second briefing was in January 2016; in a memo to the NSA, he gave more details of the funds.
“Based on the second briefing (memo) report, the NSA set up an audit team, headed by a brigadier general, which inspected the projects and submitted a report in February 2016.
“The NSA wrote back to the DG, NIA on May 17, 2016, stating that the detailed report of NIA’s projects and exercises had been presented to the President and the President was pleased with their work.”