Sunday, 14 May 2017

$289m, others: How Jonathan govt overruled CBN board


The Jonathan administration allegedly overruled the board of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) in disbursing more than $500million cash to security agencies as Special Intervention Funds, according to information made available to the Yemi Osinbajo Investigative Committee.

The committee probed the $43.4million found at an apartment in Osborne Towers, Ikoyi, Lagos; and the alleged involvement of the suspended Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Babachir Lawal, in inappropriate award of contracts under the Presidential Initiative for the North East (PINE).

The $43m cash is being claimed by the National Intelligence Agency (NIA) whose Director General, Ambassador Ayo Oke has also been placed on suspension.

The Osinbajo Panel, The Nation can disclose, discovered that it was not only the NIA that benefited from the funds.

Records made available to the panel indicated that it was only the agency that executed nine projects with funds given to it.

There are however issues over the $43.4million which NIA insisted belongs to it.

None of the remaining security agencies has submitted any list of projects carried out with their cash.

The development made the panel “suspect that some of the special intervention funds” were used for 2015 Presidential poll.

President Muhammadu Buhari is expected to “take a final decision soon on the recommendations of the panel and the fate of other agencies which benefitted.”

The Nation gathered that the CBN Board strongly opposed direct disbursement of cash to all the security agencies listed for the intervention funds.

Apart from the implications of pumping such money into the economy, the board wanted the funds disbursed through “due process.”

It was learnt that the CBN board submitted its caution advisory on the funds to the Osinbajo panel which wound up last week.

A Presidency source said the CBN board “showed proof that it was opposed to direct cash disbursement to security agencies including the NIA.”

The source added:”but those who testified before the panel said since there was a clear-cut presidential approval, the apex bank was handicapped. It was impossible to ignore the directive of the President.

“They claimed that since the purposes of the cash were classified matters, the advice of the CBN board was overruled more so when the nation was under security emergency.

“They explained that the same scenario applied to direct cash disbursement to the Office of the National Security Adviser (ONSA) during the tenure of Sambo Dasuki. This was why Dasuki has consistently maintained that he acted on the orders of the ex-President.”

The source said the panel could not invite the former President because under a presidential system, there are some unquestionable discretionary powers which a president can exercise.

Another source said the panel discovered that apart from the NIA, some security agencies were discovered to have benefitted from the special intervention funds.

“The panel obtained records indicating cash disbursement to NIA and other security agencies.

“So far, only the NIA has accounted for the $289million given to it. The suspended DG of the agency, Amb. Ayo Oke itemized a list of nine projects and their cost implications.

“All the details were contained in a memo Oke sent to President Muhammadu Buhari through the National Security Adviser, Gen. Babagana Monguno.

“Besides acknowledging the receipt of the memo, a team from ONSA also inspected these projects. The only area of disagreement between the panel and the NIA DG was just the status of the $43.4million which the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) recovered from Apartment 7B in Osborne Towers.

“NIA insisted that the cash haul was part of the $289million but the panel said it suspected the money might have been part of the special intervention funds allegedly used for 2015 general elections.

“The panel said it discovered that NIA was very strict in paying all its contractors through the CBN. Even though the agency avoided direct contact with contractors, the panel could not understand what informed the lodgement of the $43.4million in an apartment.”

A source in NIA said: “The $43.4million was part of the $289million. This agency did not commit any infraction. And the agency was straightforward in explaining that this money forcefully retrieved by EFCC was covert operation.

“There is nowhere in the world where you keep funds for covert operations in banks or in any account. They are like security votes. You can draw examples from the CIA and FBI.

“Unless there is a predetermined agenda, the suspended DG has been transparent in managing the agency.”

It was also gathered that President Buhari will take a final decision on the recommendations of the Osinbajo panel and what to do with indicted security agencies.

The presidency source said: “The panel has completed its assignment, the buck stops on President Buhari’s table.

“Before he left, he rubbed minds with the Acting President on the recommendations. Some directions were obvious but he has to sit down or discuss with his team to finalize some issues.

“Many people were implicated, the recommendations are far-reaching and heads may roll.

“When you want to determine the fate of those in strategic positions as a leader, you have to look at all the facts. I think there is internal politics within the presidency with forces trying to outwit each other.”

The Osinbajo panel last week concluded the probe of the suspended SGF and NIA DG.

Lawal was probed over alleged N200million contract awarded to a company, Global Vision Limited, linked with him by the Presidential Initiative for the North East (PINE) for the clearing of ‘invasive plant species’ (weeds) in Yobe State.

On his part, Oke was investigated over alleged $43.4million which was recovered by the EFCC at 7B apartment in Osborne Towers, Ikoyi in Lagos.

(The Nation)

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