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 agreements with countries such as Switzerland and the United States. It is believed that not less than $700 million has been repatriated from Switzerland alone. It is not clear how much has been recovered in total.
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, saying she expected 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.
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 that have not been appropriated by the National Assembly.
He barked…“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.
Dr Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala has dismissed allegations that she illegally authorized the diversion of recently recovered Abacha loot during the administration of former president, Goodluck Jonathan.
In a statement on Wednesday by her media adviser, Paul Nwabuikwu, Okonjo-Iweala described the allegation as “part of a campaign of falsehood” to “tarnish her image”
The former minister explains that the contents of a memo dated January 20, 2015 in which she responded to a request by the former National Security Adviser, Col Ibrahim Dasuki (retired) for funds to prosecute the war against Boko Haram, was “distorted”.
To set the records straight, the statement maintained that “the central responsibility of the Minister of Finance is to find sources of funding for the financing of approved national priorities such as security, job creation and infrastructure”.
The statement also “recalled that throughout 2014, there were public complaints by the military hierarchy to President Goodluck Jonathan about the inadequacy of funds to fight the anti-terror war in the North East, resulting in Boko Haram making gains and even taking territories. A lot of the criticism was directed at the Federal Ministry of Finance under Dr Okonjo-Iweala which was accused of not doing enough to find funds for the operations.
“In fact, the Ministry, on several occasions, had to call press conferences to provide details of budgetary spending on the military, to show, against the background of limited resources and other urgent national priorities, that it was doing its best on funding security.
“It was about this time that some new Abacha funds of about $322m were returned with another $700m still expected to be returned. (This is not to be confused with the Abacha funds returned in 2005-2006 under the Obasanjo government whose use for developmental purposes was monitored by the World Bank as earlier explained by Dr Okonjo-Iweala), the statement said.
It further noted that “former President Jonathan set up a Committee comprising of the former Minister of Justice, former NSA and the former Minister of Finance to determine how best to use both the returned and expected funds for development.
“The NSA made a case for using the returned funds for urgent security operations since, he noted, there cannot be any development without peace and security. Based on this, a decision was taken to deploy about $322m for the military operations, while the expected $700m would be applied for development programmes as originally conceived.
“Following the discussions and based on the urgency of the NSA’s memo, Dr Okonjo-Iweala requested the President to approve the transfer of the requested amount to the NSA’s Office for the specified purposes”.
Mr Nwabuikwu maintained that “she insisted on three conditions: a. only a part, not the entire Abacha funds would be spent on the arms; the rest would be invested in developmental projects as originally conceived b. the money was to be treated as borrowed funds which would be paid back as soon as possible c. the NSA’s office was to account for the spending to the President who was the Commander in Chief, given the fact that the Minister of Finance is not part of the security architecture and does not participate in the Security Council”.
He insisted that “the attempt to link the former Minister’s name to any misuse of these funds for any purpose other than security as far as she understood it is totally false and cannot stand.