Details of how the embattled Director-General of the National Intelligence Agency hid the $43m found recently at a private apartment on Osborne Street, Ikoyi, Lagos, from both the President and the National Security Adviser are emerging just as the Presidential Committee set up to investigate the matter and certain financial allegations against the suspended Secretary to the Government of the Federation gets on its final stretch.
While Mr. Ayo Oke, the suspended DG of the NIA is widely reported to have claimed that the current National Security Adviser General Babagana Munguno is aware of the existence of the money, authoritative government sources said last night that what actually happened "is significantly different from that claim."
An official source who pleaded for anonymity explained that in the first instance, Oke did not brief the NSA at all about the existence of such funds-$289M- or the projects they were meant for when the Buhari administration took office in May 2015, even though the money had been released in March the same year.
The NSA office, it was learnt, only got its first knowledge of the existence of such funds during the work of the presidential committee that audited the Defense Equipment Procurement in the Armed Forces. The Committee had observed certain payments from the CBN to the NIA and raised questions drawing the attention of the NSA.
When the suspended DG of the NIA discovered that that Committee was raising questions and to forestall the NSA from "blowing the cover," he then gave his first report to the NSA on the existence of such funds and warned that the Committee's job does not cover the activities or the spendings of the NIA.
A top government source narrated thus:
"The Presidential Committee on Audit of Defense Equipment Procurement, in the course of its assignment came across information that the NIA received a huge sum of money in early 2015 from the former President. Based on this the NSA carried out a preliminary investigation during which the NIA claimed the money was released for some projects aimed at commencing the Agency's 30th anniversary.This was in January 2017."
The source added that subsequently, "a team was constituted" to ascertain the situation. The first suspicion of a potential abuse was noticed at this stage, according to sources, especially considering the amount of money involved and the purposes stated.
"This was how the NSA and the Presidency learnt of the existence of such funds. We were not told by anyone in NIA until the Committee saw something, and raised a red flag,” the sources noted.
However, when the embattled NIA top spy was now compelled to explain what was happening, "he still did not inform anyone in the Federal Government or presidency that he kept $43m of the said funds in cash at a private apartment anywhere in Lagos or any part of the country," it was added.
A top official in the know observed "this is the issue: the NSA was not told that NIA had this lump cash stashed away in the place it was eventually discovered by EFCC. In any case, extant rules are clear that such monies ought only to be placed in the NIA headquarters or in CBN vaults.”
There are also instances where CBN actually paid out some of the funds directly to some NIA contractors, raising questions why the suspended NIA needed to put aside such huge cash in a private apartment.
It was also learned that the projects for which the former President approved the funds totaling $289m included two in Lagos whose cost were put at about $28m, which is way less than the $43m cash found in the Ikoyi apartment. Sources explained further that as at January this year, funds for the Lagos projects had actually been released to the tune of $18m, meaning only about $10m was left to be paid four months ago before $43m was found in the Lagos apartment recently.
Said one official source: "So let us even assume that the NIA DG wanted to keep funds in Lagos for the Lagos based projects, he did not need that much for the total of the Lagos projects at all. And apart from that it is completely untenable to stash away agency money in a private apartment instead of keeping it with the CBN or inside the NIA head office where the money would be well-secured and its disbursement well protected. "