By Soni Daniel, Regional Editor, North
ABUJA—The withdrawal of of N1.5 billion from the account of the Ministry of Niger Delta Affairs with the Central Bank of Nigeria, CBN, and what the money was used for are some of the questions the Office of the Head of Service of the Federation and security agencies are currently trying to unravel with a view to retrieving the funds and bringing those who stole the cash to book.
In connection with the said money, two senior accountants in the Ministry of Niger Delta Affairs have already been queried and suspended from office pending the conclusion of investigation into their roles in the alleged theft of the fund.
Vanguard learned that although the two officers promptly responded to the query by pleading that they were simply carrying out their duties as civil servants, the ministry immediately suspended them, rejecting their excuse.
They had argued that they withdrew the money based on the instruction of superior authorities and that as civil servants they could not have disobeyed their ‘superiors’ who asked them to make the said amount available for official use.
The amount in question was reportedly taken in two withdrawals on the instructions of senior political aide, claiming to be working on the directives of a top presidency bigwig.
The first sum of N605 million withdrawn by a minister from the account of the ministry went missing after being withdrawn from the CBN and is the subject of investigation by the Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Commission, ICPC, while another withdrawal of over N800 million attracted the attention of the HoS which queried the two accountants and finally suspended them.
There were indications that the suspended accountants had named those who were behind the cash withdrawals and had tried to exonerate themselves from the deal.
It was learned that the Federal Government is bent on inviting a former minister in the ministery to appear before its anti-corruption bodies to explain his role in the missing cash.
Already, one of the former ministers and close confidant of former President Goodluck Jonathan, Elder Godsday Orubebe, has been questioned by the ICPC and freed by the commission.
The former minister claimed that he had already resigned before the cash went missing and that he never asked anyone to withdraw such amount for him, knowing that it was against service regulations.
Already, the Presidency has been given a brief on the finances of the ministry and the roles played by some senior political actors in the dying days of the last administration.