By Jimitota Onoyume, with agency reports
•Amaechi demands apology, N750m from Fani-Kayode, N500m from Fayose’s aide, Olayinka
•No losing sleep over suit, says Fani-Kayode
•Falana: NIA shouldn’t play on intelligence of Nigerians
The Central Bank of Nigeria, CBN, has dismissed insinuations that the N13 billion discovered by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, in a luxury apartment at Osborne Road, Ikoyi, Lagos was moved directly fromthe bank to the National Intelligence Agency, NIA.
The amount was the total of the $42 million, £27,000 and N23 million recovered from the apartment.
The CBN’s reaction came against the backdrop of reports that the NIA claimed that it got the money from the CBN.
This is even as the All Progressives Congress, APC, in Rivers State yesterday described as mischievous, allegations by the trio of Governors Nyesom Wike of Rivers State, Ayo Fayose of Ekiti State, and Mr Femi Fani-Kayode, that the Minister of Transportation, Mr Chibuike Amaechi, was owner of the $43 billion recovered from the Ikoyi apartment.
Also yesterday, Minister of Transportation, Rotimi Amaechi, demanded a public apology, in addition to the sums of N750 million and N500 million respectively from former Aviation Minister, Femi Fani-Kayode, and media aide to Ekiti Governor, Lere Olayinka, for linking him with the Ikoyi, Lagos cash stash.
Asked to clarify the CBN’s role in the disbursement of the funds, spokesman of the bank, Isaac Okorafor, told online portal, Premium Times, that the apex bank deals directly with banks and not government agencies or individuals.
He said: “It is true the Central Bank of Nigeria issues mint-fresh notes, but it is only to banks. After that (issuance to banks), CBN does not know which of their customers they (the banks) give those notes to and for what purpose.
“I cannot say if the notes the NIA is claiming came from the CBN. So, I will not be able to answer questions on it for now, except I receive a specific request.”
Meanwhile, the All Progressives Congress, APC, in Rivers State has described as mischievous allegations by the trio of governors Nyesom Wike, Ayo Fayose and Mr Fani Kayode that the Minister of Transportation, Mr Chibuike Amaechi was owner of the 43 billion dollars recovered at a luxury apartment in Lagos State.
Chairman of the party in the state, Dr Davies Ikanya, said the trio were just trying to tarnish the reputation of the former governor with the allegations, adding that Amaechi was also not the owner of the luxury apartment.
The statement, signed by media aide to the Chairman, Chief Eze Chukwuemeka, also dared Governor Wike to go ahead with his threat to drag the federal government to court over the money.
“For the avoidance of doubt, we wish to state that Amaechi has nothing to do with either the Ikoyi estate or the huge sums of money discovered there by EFCC.
“We urge Nigerians to ignore the antics of the likes of Wike, Fayose and Fani-Kayode. Now that the revealing facts before the public domain disassociate Amaechi from this, we, hereby, request the trio to formally apologise to Amaechi for this false accusation within two weeks or we may be left with no other option than to brief our lawyers accordingly.
“Meanwhile, we urge Wike and his confused government in Rivers State to carry out their threat to sue the Federal Government, if by the end of seven days the contentious huge sum is not returned to Rivers State government or else they should hide their ugly faces in shame if they should fail to do as threatened.”
Amaechi sues Fani-Kayode, Fayose, Olayinka for N1.250bn
However, Transportation Minister, Rotimi Amaechi, has filed a N500 million suit against Femi Fani-Kayode, a former minister of aviation, and Lere Olayinka, spokesman of Ayo Fayose, governor of Ekiti state.
The duo had accused Amaechi of owning the $43 million which the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, found in the luxury apartment at Ikoyi.
In separate letters to Fani-Kayode and Olayinka, counsel to Amaechi, Lateef Fagbemi, said the allegations against his client were false.
Fagbemi said his client had never owned a home in Lagos State, and that the “misleading information” was capable of tarnishing Amaechi’s reputation.
“The story as uploaded by you is to our knowledge, blatantly false, malicious and is aimed at impeaching the credit of our client, a two-time speaker of Rivers State of House of Assembly, a two-time governor of Rivers State and current minister of the federation.
“Our client neither owns the house where the cash was found and your story and claim are unfounded,’’ read a letter sent to both men.
Amaechi’s counsel said the publication constituted a libel and was defamatory “aimed at impinging our client’s character and credit in the eyes of Nigerians and foreigners.’’
No losing sleep over suit, says Fani-Kayode
Reacting, Fani-Kayode in a statement by his Special Adviser on Media, Jude Ndukwe, said: “We have been inundated with calls concerning about a threat by Rotimi Amaechi to sue Chief Fani-Kayode for defamation over the $43 million issue.
‘’We are not in any sleep over this matter. We have not received any court processes or letters from Amaechi but when we do so, our lawyers will respond vigorously and appropriately.’’
I’m not aware of any suit— Olayinka
Also reacting to Amaechi’s suit, Special Assistant to Ekiti State Governor on Public Communications and New Media, Lere Olayinka, said he was not aware of any suit originating from Mr Amaechi.
Olayinka said: “I am not aware of any letter, I am not aware of any suit.”
Falana: NIA shouldn’t play on intelligence of Nigerians
The federal government would be jeopardising its whistle-blowing policy if it accepts the National Intelligence Agency’s claim over the monies recently recovered by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), says Femi Falana.
Following the discovery of $43 million, N22 million and £27,000 in a residential apartment in Ikoyi, Lagos, the NIA reportedly claimed ownership of the stashed funds.
Reacting in a statement on Sunday, the senior advocate of Nigeria (SAN) wondered why the funds, if it truly belongs to the NIA, was not kept in “a safe in the well-fortified” office of the national security adviser.
The human rights lawyer also wondered why the NIA had not briefed anti-graft agencies about the funds since the whistle-blowing policy was launched.
Falana also advised the Rivers state government, whose governor, Nyesom Wike claimed ownership of the funds, to file an affidavit to the effect at the federal high court.
The statement read: “In 2014, two businessmen (an Israeli and a Nigerian) smuggled $9.3 million to South Africa from Nigeria. It was alleged that the private jet with which the fund was hauled was leased from the then President of Christian Association of Nigeria, Pastor Ayo Oritsejafor.
“Both suspects were arrested while the fund was seized. The additional sum of $5.7 million sent to South Africa through a bank by the duo was also seized. Although the Federal Government was not implicated in the transfer of the fund, the Office of the National Security Adviser (ONSA) later claimed that the $15 million was meant for the purchase of arms from a firm in South Africa.
“As the ONSA could not justify the brazen contravention of the Money Laundering Act of South Africa, the fund was confiscated on the orders of a High Court in Pretoria. When tried last year to confirm from the Attorney-General of the Federation if the forfeited sum of $15 million had been recovered from the President Jacob Zuma regime, I was asked to direct my enquiry to the ONSA.
“It is hoped that history is not repeating itself with respect to the embarrassing attempt by the National Intelligence Agency (NIA) to claim the sum of $43 million, N22 million and £27,000 seized by the EFCC last week from a flat at a building in Osborne Road, Ikoyi.
“The Federal Government owes the nation a duty to handle this matter with utmost transparency and circumspection. The NIA should not be allowed to play on the collective intelligence of the Nigerian people. If the Federal Government believes the cock and bull story of the NIA, the danger is that similar hidden funds are going to be officially protected, thereby making a mockery of the whistle-blowing policy of the government.
“We must avoid a situation whereby huge funds hidden in abandoned buildings and apartments are said to be “operational funds” kept by certain security agencies. If the EFCC had refused to seize the fund last week, the whistle-blower could have rushed to the media to accuse the Buhari administration of keeping stolen money for the 2019 general elections.
“Apart from the NIA, the Rivers State government is also laying claim to the fund. But instead of giving the Federal Government a seven-day ultimatum to hand over the money to the Rives State government, Governor Nyesom Wike should instruct his attorney-general to file an affidavit at the Federal High Court.
“But before doing that, he should carefully study the case of FRN v CBN (unreported) where the application of the Delta State government to claim the bribe of $15 million paid to the then EFCC chairman, Mr. Nuhu Ribadu, by a former governor of the state was dismissed as the applicant was unable to prove that it owned the money.
“On a more serious note, are Nigerians to believe that an agency of the federal government kept about $50 million in an apartment without adequate security personnel to guard the money? Why was the fund not kept in a safe in the well-fortified ONSA? When was the National Intelligence Agency exempted from the Treasury Single Account (TSA)?
“If the DG of NIA has just gone to brief President Buhari that the fund was collected from former President Goodluck Jonathan for a special project, why did the briefing not take place before now? Since the NIA is in charge of external security why was it necessary to execute projects in the country? How much of such fund is being kept in private homes by the NIA and other security agencies?
“Since the whistle-blowing policy of the Federal Government commenced why has the NIA not deemed it fit to take the anti-graft agencies into confidence with respect to the fund being kept in Ikoyi for the so called covert operations?
“Is the Federal Government not being exposed to ridicule when corrupt public officers are competing with government departments to hide millions of United States dollars in dump sites and ‘safe’ apartments? Anyway, since the Federal High Court has granted the application filed by the EFCC for an interim forfeiture of the fund, it is no longer an internal affair of the Buhari administration. Let the National Intelligence Agency approach the court with convert proof to claim the money.”