The immediate past Minister of Finance, and Co-ordinating Minister for the Economy, Dr Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, was said to have 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, it was gathered, Wednesday. According to a letter signed by Okonjo-Iweala, which was obtained by online medium, Premium Times, the former Finance minister signed off the transfer of the funds but requested then President Goodluck Jonathan to directly demand accountability from the then National Security Adviser, Col Sambo Dasuki. In her immediate reaction, however, Okonjo-Iweala explained that only a part of the fund recovered from late Abacha was spent on arms and not the entire fund.
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. Okonjo-Iweala’s letter dated January 20, 2015, which was addressed to Jonathan, revealed that the money was transferred following a January 12, 2015 request by the Office of the NSA under Dasuki for funds for the procurement of arms and ammunition as well as intelligence equipment.
The letter read:“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 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).”
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. In her response yesterday, Okonjo-Iweala said attempt to link her 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.
In a statement signed by her Media Adviser, Paul C Nwabuikwu, she explained her role in the disbursement of the fund. According to her, “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 $322 million were returned with another $700 million 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). Former President Jonathan set up a committee comprising 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 $322 million for the military operations, while the expected $700 million 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. But, as captured in the memo, 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.”