Tuesday, 2 May 2017

$43.4m: NIA may sell apartment

Apartment 7B, the Osborne Towers expensive home where $43.4m was found, may be sold, it was learnt yesterday. A Presidential Investigative Committee is probing the suspended Director-General of the National Intelligence Agency (NIA), Amb. Ayo Oke, over the cash and the Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF), Babachir Lawal, for a N200million contract awarded to a company, Global Vision Limited, linked with him.

There were indications yesterday that:

  • the committee may have concluded the SGF’s case, which a source described as “straightforward”;
  • the Presidency is of the opinion that the National Security Adviser (NSA), Gen. Babagana Monguno, has no case to answer on the $43.4m; and that
  • the committee may not ask Monguno, who is one of its members, to step aside. It was learnt that a directive had been given to the agency to put the apartment in the property market.

The apartment may fetch the agency about N200 million, a source said.

The outcome of the Osinbajo Committee’s report will determine whether or not the EFCC has any further role to play on the seized $43.4 million and the N200 million alleged contract scandal.

A source in the anti-graft agency said: “Once the report is submitted to President Muhammadu Buhari, whatever we should do will be communicated by the Presidency through the committee.

“If any public officer will further be investigated or prosecuted, it is the committee which will determine the next step. “So far, it is becoming clearer that more public officers might have cases to answer.”

The EFCC has filed an application before Justice Muslim Hassan of the Federal High Court, Lagos for the permanent forfeiture of the $43,449,947, £27,800 and N23,218,000, which it recovered at the Osborne Towers apartment to the Federal Government. Any person or agency claiming ownership of the cash is expected to appear before the judge on May 5, with proof, to show cause why the money should not be permanently forfeited to the government.

There were speculations that the SGF had been recommended for trial but no committee member or presidency official could confirm this last night. “I think Lawal has got wind of the decision of the committee but he is unruffled,” a source added. There were indications that Gen. Monguno may not be asked to step aside from the committee.

Oke had claimed that the NSA was in the picture of the seized $43.4 million, which he said was part of a $289 million Special Intervention Funds. He told the panel that he wrote a memo to the NSA on January 26, 2016 on the $289 million released to NIA and attached a list of nine projects being executed.

He also said the NIA raised a committee in February 2016 to assess the projects. The suspended director-general said on May 17, 2016, the NSA informed him via a memo that the “detailed report of the NIA’s projects and exercises had been presented to the president and the president was pleased with their work”. A source told The Nation: “When Oke appeared before the committee, he repeated all these official procedures in the presence of the NSA who did not make any comments.

“It is on this basis that Oke told the committee that the NSA knew about the $43.4m cash. “And there has been pressure on the committee to ask NSA to step aside.” But a source in the Presidency last night said the panel saw no reason for Monguno to step aside.

The source said: “Some forces are just eager to drag the NSA into this crisis without taking note of the fact that he had nothing to do with it. “The NSA can even be described as the whistle-blower. He was mandated by President Buhari to raise a committee to probe arms procurement. It was the committee which actually detected that $289 million extra-.budgetary cash was allocated to NIA.

“The NIA DG wrote the NSA after the arms probe panel made the discovery. It was not as if it was a willing thing. “The President put the NSA on Osinbajo panel because he has a comprehensive report and deep knowledge of the funds disbursed through the Central Bank of Nigeria, NNPC accounts and other agencies.

“When the government read the report of the NSA/NIA DG ‘clash’, it was strange because NSA was never a party to the cash haul at Osborne Towers. “And what is being investigated is not the $289 million per se but $43.4 million found in the apartment in Osborne Towers. “The Presidency has made up its mind that the NSA will serve on the Osinbajo panel to the end.” A source in NIA explained why it was important for the NSA to step aside.

“We expect the panel to invite and interrogate him on some issues tabled by the DG. “You cannot approbate and reprobate at the same time. He cannot sit in judgment over a matter he knew about. “We hope the President will drop the NSA from the panel.”

A former spokesman for the Goodluck Campaign Organisation, Chief Femi Fani-Kayode, said the suspended NIA director-general did not spend any money on the former President’s campaign organisation.

Femi-Kayode made this statement in a tweet on Monday. He said: “The attempt to rubbish the D-G of NIA and destroy him by certain elements in govt. will fail. He did not spend one kobo on GEJ’s campaign”.

(The Nation)

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