The Deputy Director General in charge of Administration at the National Intelligence Agency (NIA), who is now the acting Director General, Ambassador Arab Yadam and the Deputy Director General (Operations), Ambassador Emmanuel Okafor, have told the Yemi Osinbajo investigative panel that they were not privy to the about N15 billion cash that was kept at the Osborne Towers in Ikoyi, Lagos.
The Director-General of NIA, Ambassador Ayodele Oke, was suspended over the discovery of $43.3 million, N23.3 million and £27,800 cash in a luxury apartment at Osborne Towers in Ikoyi, Lagos, which he claimed belongs to the agency.
A source close to the Osinbajo investigative panel told New Telegraph yesterday that the two top intelligence chiefs confessed to the panel that Oke ran a one-man show at the agency. According to the source, who does not want to be named, Yadam and Okafor told the panel last week Thursday that Oke “should carry his own cross for not carrying the top echelon of the agency along even in the day-to-day running of NIA.”
The duo also accused Oke of arbitrariness and failure to make full disclosure to President Muhammadu Buhari and the National Security Adviser (NSA), Maj.-Gen. Babagana Monguno (rtd), about the nature of the covert operations that the agency was supposed to undertake with the huge cash that was discovered at Osborne Towers.
The suspended NIA boss had told the panel that Monguno knew about the recovered fund. According to Oke, he wrote a memo to the NSA on the custody of the $43.3 million and that the funds were for covert operations.
However, the source said that it was when the Presidential Committee on Purchase of Arms, which Monguno is a member, stumbled on irregular payments by the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) to NIA that the NSA confronted Oke.
“It was at that point that the DG NIA told Major General Monguno that the monies were released to the agency for covert operations by the Goodluck Jonathan administration, but he didn’t disclose further,” the source pointed out. According to him, “The lack of full disclosure necessitated the NSA to write a memo to the president about the huge cash that was released to the agency by Jonathan on March 24, 2016.
“In the memo, Monguno clearly stated that although the objectives of celebrating NIA’s 30th anniversary and executing some covert operations seem noble, there is the possibility of the funds being abused by the agency’s leadership,” the source added.
He further said that the suspended NIA chief erred by not disclosing fully the “source of the funds, where it is located and the appropriate expenditure in respect of the projects that NIA was doing either in Lagos or Abuja.”
Meanwhile, a presidency source, conversant with the operations of the panel, confirmed to our correspondent at the weekend that the suspended NIA DG will be nailed as he has not been able to convince the three ‘wise men’ that the recovered money from the Ikoyi apartment is part of funds approved by former President Jonathan for critical security infrastructure and covert operations in 2015.
Jonathan had, in March 2015, approved a total of $289 million for the NIA to deliver on infrastructurand other security projects. According to the source, the presidential committee, set up by Buhari on the audit of Defence Equipment Procurement in the Armed Forces between 2007 and 2015, in the course of carrying out its assignment, also stumbled on the approval of the $289 million by former President Jonathan for the agency.
The panel, which was chaired by AVM J.O.N. Ode (rtd), is the same committee which uncovered the $15 billion arms fraud in the purchase of the military wares to tackle the Boko Haram insurgency in the North-East. New Telegraph gathered that following the revelation by the AVM Ode’s committee on the $289 million, the present NSA, Monguno, constituted a separate committee to identify and establish whether all the listed projects by the suspended NIA boss were actually being executed.
A senior aide to the president, who pleaded anonymity because he was not authorised to speak on the matter, said the embattled NIA director general was only compelled to brief the NSA on the $289 million after the existence of the funds which was hitherto treated in secret, had been revealed by the AVM Ode’s committee. “Oke informed the NSA that the NIA was executing nine critical projects across the country.
He disclosed that as at January 2015, the agency had made payments to contractors amounting to $98.891 million, leaving a balance of $190.311 million out of the total funds released by the immediate past administration.
“The NIA director general also briefed the NSA that, of the balance left from the released funds, cash at hand was $89.298 million while $101.012 million was in a dedicated bank account.
“All these breakdown was possible when Ambassador Oke knew that the new panel set up by the NSA would beam its searchlight on the $289 million approved by former President Jonathan for the nine projects,” the presidential aide noted.
The source told our correspondent that what is worrisome is that when the separate panel set up by the NSA investigated the payments made by both the CBN and the agency to contractors from the $289 million, the figures captured for on-going and completed projects under the critical infrastructure and covert operations added up to the entire money. He stated that the $43.3 million found in the Ikoyi apartment was not part of Jonathan’s approval.
“Oke’s problem is that when the panel went round the country, they were not shown the Lagos apartment and the $43 million that has just been recovered by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC). His problem clearly is that of disclosure.
“The thinking in the security intelligence community is that these monies may have been campaign funds in the 2015 election,” he added.
Buhari had, on April 19, suspended the NIA DG alongside the Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF), Babachir David Lawal, and constituted a threeman committee headed by Osinbajo to investigate the allegations raised against the two senior officers.
The Osinbajo panel is expected to complete its assignment on Wednesday this week (14 days) as directed by Mr. President. All the principal actors, including the acting chairman of the EFCC, Ibrahim Magu; the CBN Governor, Godwin Emefiele; Director General of the Bureau for Public Procurement (BPP); the embattled NIA DG, the suspended SGF and contractors handling different projects have since appeared before the panel.
Other members of the Presidential Investigative Committee are the Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami (SAN) and the NSA, Major General Monguno (rtd).