The immediate past Minister of Finance, Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, illegally approved the transfer of at least N61.4 billion ($300 million and £5.5 million) from funds recovered from late dictator, Sani Abacha, to the Office of the National Security Adviser, Sambo Dasuki, few weeks to the 2015 presidential election, PREMIUM TIMES can authoritatively report today.
The former Minister signed off on the transfer but then closed her eyes to how the funds were spent, requesting then President Goodluck Jonathan to directly demand accountability from Mr. Dasuki, according to documents seen by this newspaper.
The funds were never appropriated before they were transferred, a clear violation of Nigeria’s fiscal responsibility law.
Mr. Dasuki, alongside the former governor of Sokoto State, Attahiru Bafarawa and founder of DAAR communications, owners of Africa Independent Television and Raypower radio network, Raymond Dokpesi, are being investigated for their roles in the disbursement of $2.1 billion and N643 billion meant for the procurement of arms to fight the raging insurgency in Nigeria’s north east region.
The recovered Abacha loot are funds returned to the Nigerian government from monies stolen from the country’s treasury by Mr. Abacha.
The late dictator stole an estimated $5 billion from Nigeria and the money is being returned in tranches after agreement with countries such as Switzerland and the United States. So far $700 million has been repatriated from Switzerland.
It is not clear whether these funds in question were part of the arms procurement funds for which Mr Dasuki is being investigated.
But a letter signed by Mrs Okonjo-Iweala, seen by PREMIUM TIMES, showed that 50 per cent of the recently recovered Abacha loot was allotted for “urgent security need” such as the procurement of arms and ammunition while the other half was set aside to be used for development purposes.
The letter, dated January 20, 2015, which was addressed to Mr Jonathan revealed that the money was transferred following a January 12, 2015 request by the office of the NSA under Mr Dasuki for funds for the procurement of arms and ammunition as well as intelligence equipment.
“Please find a request by the National Security Adviser (NSA) for the transfer of $300 million and £5.5 million of the recovered Abacha funds to an ONSA [Office of the National Security Adviser] operations account,” the letter read.
“The NSA has explained that this is to enable the purchase of ammunition, security, and other intelligence equipment for the security agencies in order to enable them fully confront the ongoing Boko Haram threat.
“His request is sequel to the meeting you chaired with the committee on the use of recovered funds where the decision was made that recovered Abacha funds would be split 50-50 between urgent security needs to confront Boko Haram and development need (including a portion for the Future Generations window of the Sovereign Wealth Fund),” Mrs Okojo-Iweala wrote.
She added that the letter was to seek Mr Jonathan’s approval for the funds to be disbursed to the ONSA. The former minister further explained that the money being transferred formed part of the Federal Government Independent Revenue.
However, instead of insisting on overseeing how the disbursed funds were spent, as the country’s chief financial officer, she abdicated her responsibility, expecting and asked Mr Dasuki to account directly to Mr Jonathan.
“This letter is to seek your approval to borrow these funds, for now, to disburse to the NSA. These funds form part of the projected Federal Government Independent Revenue, to be appropriated, in the light and for accountability, given the peculiar nature of security and intelligence transactions, we would expect the NSA to account to Your Excellency for the utilisation of the funds,” she concluded.
In a January 30, 2015 letter, Mr. Jonathan approved the transfer.
Governor Adams Oshiomhole vindicated
This latest disclosure appears to have vindicated Edo State Governor, Adams Oshiomhole, who last week called for the prosecution of Mrs. Okonjo-Iweala for transferring funds that were not appropriated.
The governor stated that neither the president nor the minister has power to unilaterally transfer funds that were not appropriated by the National Assembly.
He therefore argued that Mr. Jonathan and Mrs Okonjo-Iweala should be charged alongside Messrs Dasuki, Dokpesi and Bafawara for allegedly misappropriating funds meant for arms procurement.
“The issue is whether the Nigerian President under the constitution has the power to approve funds belonging to local, state and federal government- funds that have not been appropriated by the National Assembly. That is a criminal offense for which Okonjo-Iweala ought to face criminal prosecution. These things are just discussed and wished away. For me, I will stick for the truth and don’t care what people will say,” Mr. Oshiomhole said.
“Talking about revelation, look at the letter credited to Dasuki – the immediate past National Security Adviser. In his defence which I read in your paper, he seems to admit that money was spent but it was approved by the President. Does the Nigerian constitution empower the President to spend money which has not been appropriated by the National Assembly? And they took cash from the CBN. The Money Laundering Act says if you take cash in excess of N5 million transaction, it is money laundering and it is criminal.
“So, by Dasuki’s letter, he has also confirmed that Okonjo-Iweala is privy to spending money never appropriated and therefore criminal, and that cash were being moved contrary to the money laundering act. Just using Dasuki’s own defence, you can see a case of conspiracy has been established between Dasuki, Okonjo-Iweala and all those involved in that transaction,” Mr. Oshiomhole said.
But in a stern statement, where she described Mr Oshiomhole as reckless, Mrs Okonjo-Iweala asked the federal government to call the governor to order.
She stated that she had “absolutely nothing to do with” the $2.1 billion arms procurement money.
“It is unconscionable for the Governor to embark on a campaign of lies against her because she thwarted his dubious loan request,” she said.