Twists, turns, somersaults, and, with the courts and a call for a commission of inquiry, legalism has come into the multi-currencies totaling nearly N15 billion found in an Ikoyi luxury apartment in Lagos. Governor Nyesom Wike is the latest entrant making claims for the stashed and discovered cash.
Wike says the money was part of what was allegedly stolen from Rivers State by his immediate predecessor and political foe, the Minister of Transportation, Rotimi Amaechi, for the last presidential election.
But who is the whistle blower that gets between N500 and N750 million for disclosing the location of the money, the National Intelligence Agency (NIA), and the Rivers State government are at daggers drawn over?
No one is bothered again about Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) former chairman, Adamu Muazu, who says the money is not his; just as the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) director, Mrs. Esther Nnamdi-Ogbue, has paled into insignificance.
Wike said Friday night the state needed its money back, and followed it up with a seven-day ultimatum to the Federal Government to let go of the fund.
He gave the federal government a seven-day ultimatum to return the money said to be in the Lagos vault of the CBN at the moment or risk legal action.
His words on Friday: “We have facts to prove that the said money belongs to the Rivers State Government…the Federal Government must return our money.”
“We are giving them seven days to return our money. Otherwise, we would take legal action to recover our money. $43million will help us complete several projects. We need that money for projects.”
“If you recollect in 2015, we said that gas turbines built by Former Governor Peter Odili were sold to Sahara Energy, business partners of Chibuike Rotimi Amaechi at $319 million.
“That money was used to sponsor the All Progressives Congress for the 2015 general elections. From the date of sale of the gas turbines to May 29, 2015, the money depleted from $319million to $204,000. What was stashed at the Ikoyi residence was part of that fund.
“As I speak to you, the Federal Government is so embarrassed that this has happened. All the stories that the money belongs to the NIA are fake.”
Rivers and the NIA have to now approach a Lagos court to convince it of ownership as the whistle blower, known only to the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), waits to see if he will be paid.
Many have questioned the story flying around over the N15 billion loot, suggesting that a massive cover-up was in place to becloud watchers, even as many insist that the stubbornness of EFCC boss led to the whole mess.
“He probably knows what we all don’t know, may be that is why he resisted the overtures of the NIA boss,” a source conversant with the development said in Abuja Saturday.
Premium Times has published a comprehensive story of how the NIA claimed ownership of the money.
It published on its site, www.premiumtimesng.com: The $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 a discreet allocation released to the National Intelligence Agency (NIA) for major but covert security projects, PREMIUM TIMES has learnt.
The total value of the money at the Central Bank of Nigeria official exchange rate is over N13 billion.
Presidency and security sources told this newspaper on Friday that former President Goodluck Jonathan approved the funds for the 30-year old secret service agency after its immediate past Director General, Olaniyi Oladeji, alerted him to the need for some “crucial and covert security projects”.
The funds were later released in cash directly from the Central Bank of Nigeria as a way of making its spending completely secret, this newspaper was told.
“The projects are scattered across the country, but there is a major one in Lagos being funded with the cash warehoused in the Ikoyi building,” one source said. “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.”
Our sources said only relevant top government officials and of the NIA are aware of the projects.
One official said when the incumbent Director General of the NIA, Ayodele Oke, was alerted that EFCC operatives had swooped on the apartment, being discreetly guarded by covert operatives, he rushed to the anti-graft agency’s headquarters in Abuja to advise its chairman, Ibrahim Magu, to withdraw his men as the funds belonged to government.
At the time, about 13 police officers and some soldiers, accompanied by photographers and videographers, had broken into the apartment, and were already dismantling the safes in which the funds were concealed, our sources said.
Mr. Magu however declined Mr. Oke’s request. Instead, he directed his men to proceed with the operation. those familiar with the matter said.
A frustrated Mr. Oke was said to have rushed to the National Security Adviser, Babagana Monguno, and Vice President Yemi Osinbajo to complain about Mr. Magu’s attitude, and the huge embarrassment he had caused his otherwise extremely quiet and secretive agency.
On Thursday, presidency sources said, Mr Oke met President Muhammadu Buhari in company with Attorney General Abubakar Malami to table the same complaints.
Those who saw the NIA DG before he was called in to see the president said he had two bulky envelopes believed to contain paper and audio-visual records of the security projects.
Officials said President Buhari has since directed Mr. Magu to forward to him detailed report on the operation. The EFCC boss was also directed to immediately deposit the funds with the CBN.
On his part, Mr. Oke was asked to properly document his complaints against Mr. Magu, and then reapply for the seized funds, our sources said.
A top presidency source said the President might ask Attorney General Malami to review reports submitted by the two officials, and then forward appropriate recommendations.
When contacted Friday, the Special Adviser to the President on Media and Publicity, Femi Adesina, said, “It’s a security issue, and not strictly a presidency issue.”
He directed further enquiries on the matter to the security agencies involved.
Mr. Oke of the NIA confirmed to PREMIUM TIMES that the money belongs to his agency, but declined further comments when asked what the funds were meant for.
“You don’t expect me to tell you that,” he said.
Contacted Friday, the spokesperson for the EFCC, Wilson Uwujaren, said he had not been briefed on the matter.
Attorney General Malami initially did not answer or return calls. But he later said his presence at the meeting Mr. Oke had with the president was coincidental.
“It was nothing planned,” Mr. Malami said. “I had a lot to do at the villa, and coincidentally he (Mr. Oke) too was there. I initially did not know why he was there until much later.”
In a ruling on Thursday, Justice Muslim Hassan ordered a temporary forfeiture of the money to the government.
He adjourned further proceedings to May 5 for anyone interested or wishing to claim the money or make a case why it should not be permanently forfeited to government.
The Attorney General said he had not been formally briefed to take any action on the matter.
The EFCC had on Wednesday recovered the huge cash from an Osborne Street, Ikoyi apartment in Lagos, believing it was looted.
The anti-graft agency said it acted following a tip from a whistle-blower.