Row over ownership of $43.4m seized by EFCC deepens


Barely 72 hours after, the row over the owner of $43.4 million uncovered by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) has deepened.

There were still conflicting reports last night about the sources of the cash and the actual owners.

A twist also crept into the saga last night with claims by Governor Nyesom Wike that the money belongs to the River State Government.

He said it was the proceed from the sale of gas turbines by the immediate past administration of Rt. Hon. Rotimi Amaechi in the state.

A government source claimed that the administration of ex-President Goodluck Jonathan approved the release of the cash to the National Intelligence Agency (NIA).

The source said the money was approved during the tenure of a former Director-General of NIA, Mr. Olaniyi Oladeji.

Another source alleged that a former governor was implicated as having a link with the cash.

A firm,  which owns  Apartment 7B where the cash was kept, has been identified with the ex-governor.

It was also gathered that the profiling of the 12-storey building revealed that many highly-placed Nigerians live there, fueling speculations that there might be more to the recovery of the cash.

But Presidency and security sources told Premium Times last night that the cash belongs to the NIA.

Following whistle-blowing, EFCC on Wednesday uncovered $43,449,947, £27,800 and N23,218,000 at 16, Osborne Road (Osborne Towers) in Ikoyi. The building houses luxury flats.

A reliable source, who spoke in confidence, said:  “We have many dimensions to the recovered $43.4 million and other cash.

“The controversial apartment 7B has been linked with a company related to a former governor.

“There is suspicion that the ex-governor was trying to evade alert in the banking system by the Nigeria Financial Intelligence Unit by keeping the cash in the apartment.

“The ongoing investigation will reveal the truth or otherwise of the complicity of the ex-governor  on how the cash found its way into the apartment.

“One of the clues being probed last night was that the ex-governor’s associated company might have been engaged to keep the cash.

“But one might want to know why a security agency would engage a private firm to keep money for it. Is a private company better equipped than a security agency of government?

“If you look at Osborne Towers, the controversial apartment is unqualified to be called a ‘Safe House’ for any covert operation.

“The profiling of the Towers reveal that some highly-placed Nigerians, including a few people on EFCC radar, are living there. We have their list under wraps.”

The source added: “There might be more to the cash.”

Quoting unnamed Presidency sources, jounalists, wrote yesterday that the $43.4 million belongs to the National Intelligence Agency( NIA).

The sources said ex-President Goodluck Jonathan approved the funds for NIA after its former Director-General, Olaniyi Oladeji, demanded for funds for “crucial and covert security projects.”

Journalists said the funds were later released in cash directly from the Central Bank of Nigeria as “a way of making its spending completely secret.”

One of the presidency and security sources said: “The projects are scattered across the country, but there is a major one in Lagos being funded with the cash warehoused in the Ikoyi building.

“The spending on the projects cannot be subjected to the usual expenditure process, and that is why the funds are held in cash. If you like, you can call it illegal projects in the national interest.”

Such sensitive projects were restricted to a few government officials and of the NIA.

Journalists added: “One official said when the incumbent Director General of the NIA, Ayodele Oke, was alerted that EFCC operatives had swooped on the apartment, being discreetly guarded by covert operatives, he rushed to the anti-graft agency’s headquarters in Abuja to advise its chairman, Ibrahim Magu, to withdraw his men as the funds belonged to government.

“At the time, about 13 police officers and some soldiers, accompanied by photographers and videographers, had broken into the apartment and were already dismantling the safes in which the funds were concealed, our sources said.

“Mr. Magu however declined Mr. Oke’s request. Instead, he directed his men to proceed with the operation, those familiar with the matter said.

“A frustrated Mr. Oke was said to have rushed to the National Security Adviser, Babagana Monguno, and Vice President Yemi Osinbajo to complain about Mr. Magu’s attitude, and the huge embarrassment he had caused his otherwise extremely quiet and secretive agency.”

On Thursday, presidency sources said, Mr Oke met President Muhammadu Buhari in company with Attorney General Abubakar Malami to table the same complaints.

“Those who saw the NIA DG before he was called in to see the President said he had two bulky envelopes believed to contain paper and audio-visual records of the security projects.

Officials said President Buhari has since directed Mr. Magu to forward to him detailed report on the operation.

“The EFCC boss was also directed to immediately deposit the funds with the CBN.

“On his part, Mr. Oke was asked to properly document his complaints against Mr. Magu, and then reapply for the seized funds”

A top presidency source said the President might ask Attorney General Malami to review reports submitted by the two officials, and then forward appropriate recommendations.

But in a statement issued by by his Special Assistant on Media, Simeon Nwakaudu, Wike gave the Federal Government a seven-day ultimatum to return the funds allegedly diverted by Amaechi to the Rivers State Government.

Failure to do so, he said, the state government would take legal measures to ensure  that it gets back her “stolen  resources”.

Addressing journalists at the Government House, Port Harcourt last night, Governor Wike said: “If you recollect in 2015, we said that gas turbines built by Former Governor Peter Odili were sold  at $319 million.”

The EFCC discovery has continued to elicit varied reactions from Nigerians.


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