$43.4m: Osinbajo panel writes SGF, NIA DG Suspended officials to respond before Monday •EFCC obtains details of NIA’s transactions with CBN
By Titus Agbo
The Presidential Investigative Committee has formally written to the suspended Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Mr. Babachir Lawal, and the Director-General of the National Intelligence Agency (NIA), Mr. Ayo Oke.
The committee, headed by Vice President Yemi Osinbajo, directed the two officials to submit all documents relating to award of contracts by the Presidential Initiative for the North East (PINE) and the cash remittances to NIA in the last two years.
Lawal is being probed over alleged N200 million contract awarded by the Presidential Initiative for the North East (PINE) to Global Vision Limited, a company with which he has links, for the clearing of ‘invasive plant species’ (weeds) in Yobe State.
Oke, on the other hand, is being investigated over alleged $43.4 million covert operations cash uncovered by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) at the 7B apartment in Osborne Towers, Ikoyi, Lagos.
The Osinbajo-led panel wrote to the two embattled government officials on Thursday, asking them to submit a comprehensive report complete with all available documents related to the allegations that were levelled against them.
The documents they are expected to submit include
- details of appropriated funds in the last two years;
- allocation of special funds if given;
- approvals for funds and by who;
- expenditures; withdrawals from the Central Bank of Nigeria(CBN) if any;
- covert operations and for what purposes;
- completed and non-completed projects;
- list of contracts awarded;
- ongoing projects;
- and operation of safe houses.
The committee expects the two officials to send their responses to the panel on or before Monday.
A source said the committee will start “interacting with the suspended officials from next week.”
The modalities for their appearance are being worked out by the committee, the source said. Some government agencies will be invited too for “interaction,” he said.
Findings made by our correspondent at press time indicated that the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) has retrieved the details of all transactions on NIA’s account from the CBN.
“We learnt that the anti-graft agency has collected the details of inflow and outflow from our account from the apex bank without our knowledge,” a source in NIA said.
Former President Goodluck Jonathan was said to have been implicated as the approving authority of a sum of $289 million given to NIA from the account of National Petroleum Investment Management Services (NAPIMS), a subsidiary of the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC).
The said sum, tagged Special Intervention Fund, was said to have been approved by the former president for the security agency in February 2015, in the build-up to the presidential election he eventually lost to President Muhammadu Buhari.
The embattled NIA DG reportedly said he has a copy of the approval letter from Jonathan.
It was gathered that the Osinbajo committee will also probe speculations that the $289 million might have been part of the slush funds deployed for the 2015 general election.
A presidency source said: “This is part of why the ongoing investigation is necessary. We suspected that there might be more to it because the funds were released in February 2015.
“Even if in confidence, Osinbajo’s committee will want to know the nature of the covert operations.
“The NIA is claiming that the Special Intervention Funds were given to all security agencies but without the approval of the National Assembly.
“The motive was suspected to have a link with the 2015 presidential election. The funds might be Jonathan’s war chest.”
Corroborating the suspicion, a former Assistant Director of NIA, Mr. Ibrahim Ibrahim, told a national newspaper that “Jonathan approved $289 million or so in November 2014 in excess of the approved budget of the agency.“So, that excess was intended as campaign funds.”
But a top NIA official faulted the claim. “Ibrahim was talking rubbish; he was disengaged a long time ago.“He was no longer in the system, so he could not have known of appropriated or special funds. ”“How can someone who left the system about five to six years ago be talking authoritatively?“Even as an Assistant Director in the system, he could not have known about the financial status of NIA. He is too junior to be in the picture.”
He said Ibrahim was disengaged for alleged extreme religious views; he has been looking for any opportunity to get back at NIA.
“Let him leave the Presidential Investigative Committee to do its job”, he said.
Another source in NIA, who gave an insight into the approval by Jonathan and how the allocation came from NAPIMS, however, said: “When the budget performance was poor and funds were not forthcoming, the former President approved special intervention funds for all security agencies.
“There is a document showing in clear terms that the ex-President approved the $289 million.“We used the funds to upgrade our ICT facilities; execute an ultra-modern conference centre; constructed electronic gates in NIA; built 90 (three-bedroom) flats for staff which were completed in December 2016; constructed link road and do the ongoing fencing of NIA”.
“It should be put on record that apart from the special intervention funds, NIA was not given any money for capital projects in 2015.“Our suspended DG will hand over all the details to the Presidential Investigative Committee, including the approval by the ex-President.“A multi-national company handled most of these projects. The company can be invited.”