The mystery surrounding the ownership of $43,449,947, £27,800 and N23,218, 000 recovered by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) from an Ikoyi apartment in Lagos was unraveled on Friday with the admittance of ownership by the National Intelligence Agency (NIA).
It was stated that the funds were approved by former President Goodluck Jonathan for discreet security projects during the tenure of a former Director General of the agency, Mr. Olaniyi Oladeji.
A report detailing how the money was withdrawn from the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) warehoused in Lagos and uncovered by the EFCC, said the sensitive nature of the projects demanded that the funds be withdrawn and kept in a secret place in the interest of national security.
The projects the funds were meant to finance were reported to have been spread across the country, while the prime project was planned to be executed in Lagos, a reason the funds were kept in the city.
The report quoted a source to have stated thus: “The spending on the projects cannot be subjected to the usual expenditure process, and that is why the funds are held in cash. If you like, you can call it illegal projects in the national interest.”
However, it was said that the projects were only known to some top government officials and the NIA.
The report, however, said the Director General of NIA, Amb. Ayodele Oke prevailed on EFCC Chairman, Mr. Ibrahim Magu not to carry out the operation when he learnt of it, but the latter did not heed the plea.
Amb. Oke was reported to have rushed to EFCC headquarters in Abuja to advise Magu that the funds belonged to the Federal Government.
As of when this was ongoing in Abuja, no fewer than 13 police officers, some soldiers, photographers, and videographers, were said to have forcefully gained entrance into the apartment.
Peeved by Magu’s insistence on going ahead with the operation, Amb. Oke was said to have gone to the National Security Adviser, Alhaji, Babagana Monguno, and Vice President Yemi Osinbajo to inform them about the development.
Amb. Oke’s trip to the duo was noted to have been informed by his belief that the operation was an embarrassment to the security agency.
The NIA boss, on Thursday, had a meeting with President Muhammadu Buhari in company of the Attorney General of the Federation, Abubakar Malami on the matter.
Amb. Oke was reported to have been armed with two big envelopes assumed to contain paper and audio-visual records of the security projects.
President Buhari was said to have directed Magu to forward to him a detailed report on the operation even as the latter was asked to immediately deposit the funds with the CBN.
Amb. Oke was reportedly asked to document his complaints against the EFCC chairman and then reapply for the seized funds.
In addition, the report said the presidency might ask Malami to review reports submitted by the duo and make recommendations.
The Special Adviser to the President on Media and Publicity, Mr. Femi Adesina, was quoted to have said thus: “It is a security issue, and not strictly a presidency issue.”
Mr. Adesina was said to have directed further enquiries on the matter to the concerned security agencies.
However, the NIA boss was noted to have confirmed that the money belonged to the agency.
The spokesperson for the EFCC, Mr. Wilson Uwujaren, said he had not been briefed on the matter.
Malami, it was said, later noted that his presence at the meeting with President Buhari was a coincidence.
He was quoted thus: “I had a lot to do at the villa, and coincidentally Mr. Oke too was there. I initially did not know why he was there until much later.”
However, Rivers State governor, Nyesom Wike has described the claim that the cash belonged to the NIA as balderdash, alleging that the immediate past governor of the state and the current Minister of Transportation , Mr . Rotimi Amaechi, kept the money in the apartment.
As such, the Rivers State governor gave the Federal Government a seven- day ultimatum to return the money to the state government or be ready to face legal action.
Speaking with newsmen in Port Harcourt on Friday night, Wike said the $43million was part of the proceeds from the sale of a gas turbine by the immediate past administration, adding that the gas turbine was initially built by the Peter Odili administration.
The governor further challenged the Federal Government to set up a commission of inquiry to probe the source of the huge money found in the flat, insisting that the funds belonged to Rivers people and should be returned to the owners within seven days.
He said , “All these things they are saying that the $43million belong to the Nigerian Intelligence Agency is balderdash. When did the NIA begin to keep money in houses? As I speak to you now, the Federal Government is so embarrassed.
“I want the President to set up a commission of inquiry. We don’t want to fight anybody; they should set up a commission of inquiry or return our money within seven days. If they don’t, we will take all necessary legal actions and NIA will come and prove where they got the money from.
“The $43million is the proceeds of the sale of the gas turbine sold by the immediate past administration. The gas turbine was built by the Peter Odili administration. The gas turbine was sold to Sahara Energy.
“The turbine was sold for $319million. But as of May 2015, what was in the account was $204,000. We will avail ourselves and we will be present at the commission of inquiry expected to be set up by the Federal Government. If we are invited, we will come. There is no contradiction in this at all, but I know they will not agree.”
Wike maintained that he would complete the monorail project if the Federal Government returned the $43million to Rivers State , adding that it would be “projects galore” in the state should the money be returned back to its original owner.
“Part of the money from the sale of the gas turbine was used to fund the All Progressives Congress (APC) campaign. We are telling the world that the money belongs to us. If the FG give us the money, I will complete the monorail project,” he said.
The media aide to Mr. Rotimi Amaechi, Mr. David Iyofor, said he would react to Wike’s claim on Saturday.
The money has since been deposited into the account of the Central Bank of Nigeria following an interim forfeiture order granted by a Federal High Court in Lagos.
The court had also ruled that if the owner of the money did not show up within 30 days , it would be forfeited to the federal Government permanently.
A former chairman of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Adamu Mu’ azu was reported to have said that he knew nothing about funds recovered at a property reported to be his in Ikoyi, Lagos.
Mu’azu, who was the Governor of Bauchi State from 1999 to 2007, said he got a bank loan to acquire the land where the house was built, adding that he sold the house to pay back the loan.