By Tony Eluemunor
Little by little, droplets of information concerning the N13 billion uncovered in an Ikoyi luxury apartment seems to be seeping onto the public space. Yet, instead of the public being enlightened more and more by the bits of information that come through, the waters actually appear to be muddied up the more. No, this is not about the outlandish claim that the money belongs to Rivers state government where a former State Governor was alleged to have diverted it from.
Some folks have even gone to the way ward extent of accusing the Federal Government of conjuring out the sum just so that the populace could be diverted from the hardship and ills unleashed on Nigerians by the economic recession.
Yet, since this immediate past Monday, some little drops of facts have been coming in. Unfortunately too, some persons have made it to appear that the stashing of the money was as normal to a security agency as breathing is to man. To put this in proper perspective, Mr. Segun Adeniyi encapsulated the thinking pattern of this group when he wrote on Thursday April 27, 2017 in his THISDAY newspaper column: “I want to reserve my comments on how Nigeria has suddenly become “treasure island” where huge sums of money that have no owners are now being found almost on a daily basis. I will also keep the powder dry on the controversial N13 billion (in local and foreign currencies) belonging to the National Intelligent Agency (NIA). While the suspended NIA Director General, Ambassador Ayo Oke bungled what ordinarily should be a simple covert operation (moving cash), I also believe the EFCC should have been discrete in handling the matter given the important national security projects involved.
What I find most reprehensible is the attempt to drag in the name of President Goodluck Jonathan to score a cheap political point. I have it on good authority that President Jonathan indeed approved the projects and directed the release of the 289 million Dollars to the NIA in February 2015.
But those claiming that President Muhammadu Buhari is not aware of the money (including the balance of more than 30 million Dollars that is still in NIA custody) and the projects involved don’t know what they are talking about.
Well, if we take Mr. Adeniyi seriously, those “who don’t know what they are talking about” include all the members of the House of Representatives, who have resolved to: “ascertain the owner of the money which was discovered by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) courtesy of a whistle-blower. The resolution followed the adoption of a motion sponsored by Hon Gabriel Kolawole who said ‘There is need for thorough investigation into the matter in order to ascertain the source of the money given the claims on its ownership, purpose and the damaging effects it is having on Federal Government’s anti-corruption drive,’”.
Here, already, Representative Kolawole’s perspective is more all-encompassing than Segun Adeniyi’s which left out the question of what the money was meant for. I take it for granted that from the tone of Mr. Adeniyi’s article, he may have seen the documents Ambassador Ayodele Oke used in briefing President Mohammadu Buhari.
Even then, what has been left unsaid is where the money emanated from, and what it was approved for. Was it appropriately budgeted for the usage of the NIA (National Intelligence Agency)?
Enough of the preamble: I begin by saying that as the budget of the NIA in the year in question, 2015 (an election year) was all of $160m then why would the government make an extra-budgetary allocation of all of $289m to the same agency? It is from this point that every attempt to unravel the facts must begin. Also, the problem of what the money was meant for becomes clearer when one remembers that this extra-budgetary allocation to NIA was made at the same time with the money that was supposed to buy arms to combat Boko Haram insurgency, the handling of which is still being looked into by the courts as the government has alleged that the former National Security Adviser (NSA) Col Dasuki (rtd) used the money for other purposes. It is on record though that Dasuki has denied any wrong doing.
Yet, as allegations go, the nation has heard tales of how the money meant to fight Boko Haram was diverted to aid former President Jonathan’s 2015 re-election bid. So, too, this emolument to NIA was meant to prepare some security outfits for some civil and non-civil battles that some folks close to government were sure would result from the election that they had thought Jonathan would win. On the civil front, the NIA money was to be used in acquiring the services of some top-flight PR agencies in the Western World to paint the Nigerian administration of 2015 in illustrious light and defend the outcome of the election to high heavens. Also, as the disregard for the Jonathan administration in the US, Britain and other leading capitals of the West, NIA would was to use part of the money to obtain the services of uncommon lobbyists and opinion leaders to advance the course of the Jonathan administration and get the Western nations to see its point of view and see it in good light. In the third leg of the civil action, some Nigerians were supposed to be sent to various capital cities to defend the Jonathan administration before the press and to win over foreign opinion leaders . Yet, it is the uncivil aspect of the war that would shock Nigerians if it ever officially comes to light; this is because the NIA was supposed to equip some armies – both private and certain cells of Nigerian official security agencies – to arise and contain the bloody uprising that they feared would have arisen had Jonathan won the election and some parts of Nigeria decided to oppose him.
It is no secret that the money came from the coffers of the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC). The money found in the Ikoyi flat is what remained of the $289, 222, 382 that was disbursed in 2015. In fact, this entire controversy shows the failure of the Nigerian media and security agencies to follow the money trail. If they have been doing this duty, they would have paid attention to the American Public Broadcasting Service (PBS), in one of its special reports on Boko Haram and corruption in Nigeria; it publicly exhibited the document bearing the signatures of an Oil Minister and a Permanent Secretary, in the transfer of money to NIA. Part of the money was wired to New York City headquarters of a U.S. multinational banking and financial services holding company; JPMorgan Chase & Co. The date therein is February 2, 2015!
In that same expose where injured Nigerian soldiers uncovered how their commanders would tell them that they lacked even bullets or petrol to get their vehicles to take them out of harm’s way and would leave them to survive any way they could, even an Adviser to Buhari Professor Bolaji Owasonoye was interviewed. It is instructive that Owasonoye complained that the money given to NSA’s office and the NIA were not spent in ways that would benefit the country.
So, the question crops up: why did the Buhari administration not swing into immediate action to either recover what remained of the money or to rein in those who had the authority to spend it?
The answer is simply this: the members of the administration did not know what the money was meant for and whether any amount of the money that was disbursed in February 2015 would have still been lying fallow somewhere. In fact the existence of such funds somewhere in Osborn Road, Ikoyi, Lagos flat, after two years, would have seemed implausible.
So, how was the money found? The Segun Adeniyis made it appear that the suspended DG may have briefed the President but a cunning Buhari dipped the information in controversy by making EFCC to have made a dramatic find in that Osborn apartment – all in a bid to demonise former President Jonathan, under whose presidential watch the NIA slush fund was actually and incontrovertibly created. But the general belief out there is that a whistle-blower for a fee was at work.
The truth is that a former NIA officer wrote a petition against Ambassador Oke, and the rest, they say, is the history that is now being written. And that is why this matter is weighty, no matter how lightly some newspaper columnists and sundry commentators may make it appear. It is from such slush funds that private armies are funded.