Presidential Panel To Quiz Jonathan, Emefiele, Magu, Others Over N13b
A former president, Goodluck Jonathan, Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria, Godwin Emefiele; and anti-corruption chief, Ibrahim Magu are amongst some high-profile personalities that are expected to be questioned by a presidential panel investigating the mysteries surrounding the over N13 billion recovered from an apartment in Lagos last Wednesday.
The panel will also question the suspended Director-General of the National Intelligence Agency, NIA, Ayodele Oke, and his predecessor, Olaniyi Oladeji.
The owner of the building where the money was found and the EFCC official who led the operation will also be questioned by the three-man panel, which was convened on Wednesday.
The National Security Adviser, Babagana Monguno, who is also a member of the investigating committee is also expected to brief the committee on what he knows following reports that Mr. Oke briefed him on the NIA operation prior to the discovery of the money.
President Muhammadu Buhari named Vice President Yemi Osinbajo to lead the committee, with Attorney General Abubakar Malami and Mr. Monguno being the remaining two members, the presidency said in a statement.
The constitution of the panel came as the presidency announced the immediate suspension of the Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Babachir Lawal, and Mr. Oke for their respective roles in the grass cutting scandal and the over N13 billion recovered in Lagos respectively.
“The president also ordered a full-scale investigation into the discovery of large amounts of foreign and local currencies by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, in a residential apartment at Osborne Towers, Ikoyi, Lagos, over which the National Intelligence Agency, NIA, has made a claim,” presidential spokesperson, Femi Adesina, said Wednesday.
Mr. Adesina’s statement appears to indicate that the presidency has already accepted the NIA’s argument that the money belongs to it.
The investigative panel was tasked to unravel the “circumstances in which the NIA came into possession of the funds, how and by whose or which authority the funds were made available to the NIA, and to establish whether or not there has been a breach of the law or security procedure in obtaining custody and use of the funds,” Mr. Adesina said.
In a separate probe, the same committee is also to look into the allegations against Mr. Lawal in the grass cutting scandal.
THE IKOYI RECOVERY
Operatives of the EFCC, acting on a tip-off on April 12, said they found $43,449,947, £27,800 and N23,218,000 hidden inside an apartment at Osborne Towers, Ikoyi.
The funds were valued at over N13 billion based on prevailing exchange rate set by the Central Bank of Nigeria.
But the development, which could have been another success in the ongoing campaign against graft, became problematic for the Buhari administration following conflicting reports about the ownership of the money.
A day after news of the recovery gripped the country, the EFCC approached the Federal High Court, FHC, to secure a forfeiture order.
Muslim Hassan, a judge at the Lagos Division of the FHC, granted the anti-graft agency’s request and gave any potential claimant until May 5, else the entire N13 billion would be permanently forfeited to the Nigerian government.
On April 14, Mr. Oke told newsmen the NIA concealed the money in the apartment for undisclosed operations the foreign intelligence office was conducting.
Our sources said Mr. Oke had approached Mr. Magu to order EFCC operatives who broke into the apartment to back down while the operation was still underway, but the EFCC boss declined his pleas.
But the security chief would not comment on the purpose of the fund, telling this newspaper: “You don’t expect me to tell you that.”
On April 15, Governor Nyesom Wike said the money belonged to Rivers State, having allegedly been plundered by his predecessor, Rotimi Amaechi.
“We have facts to prove that the said money belongs to the Rivers State Government,” Mr. Wike said. “The Federal Government must return our money.”
But Mr. Amaechi, now Minister of Transport, strongly denied the allegations and threatened to sue those who publicly accused him of being the owner of the money.
The uncertainties notwithstanding, President Buhari directed that the money be returned to the CBN and ordered preliminary findings into the matter.
Culled from PremiumTimesNG
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