…We Have Nothing To Do With Recovered Funds, Says NSA
By Gift Chapi Odekina
The House of Representatives on Tuesday demanded the whereabouts of the 44 million dollars recovered from the Nigeria Intelligence Agency by Economic and Financial Crime Commission in 2017.
This is following a discovery by the the National Security Adviser that the money was not in their custody .
The Director of Finance and Admin in the Office of the National Security Adviser, Brig. General Ja’afaru Mohammed, told the House Adhoc committee investigating the management of recovered fund and movable and immovable assets between 2002 and 2020 that the ONSA has nothing to do with recovered funds and assets.
The Chairman of the adhoc Committee Rep. Adejoro Adeogun had quoted the Chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) as saying that the fund recovered from the infamous Osborne Apartment in Ikoyi was in the custody of the Office of the National Security Adviser.
General Mohammed who represented the NSA, General Babagana Monguno (rtd) countered the EFCC by telling the Committee that the NIA money was not with the ONSA and that the office has nothing to do with recovered funds or the management of such.
He explained that the only money recovered from the NIA was about 41 million dollars which was the funds seen in its vaults during investigation and restructuring of the agency, and had since been returned to the NIA on the directive of the President.
He said: “The NIA was under investigation and the President directed that the ONSA should take charge of the place. I was sent there to take charge of the funds of the agency. I went there and counted the money in their vault and it was about 41 million dollars.
“We kept that money and after the investigation, the President ordered that the money be returned to the agency. We have returned it to the owners as directed by the President”, the NSA said.
He also told the Committee that the President established a Presidential Committee on recovered assets whose activities is coordinated by the Office of the National Security Adviser, but was quick to add that the ONSA has no input into the operations of the committee as it operates independently of the ONSA.
He said funds recovered by the committee are paid directly into the Recovered Funds account with the Central Bank of Nigeria, adding that the money can only be deposited into the account, but none can be withdrawn from it.
While frowning at spending of money from the recovered funds without appropriation, the Committee Chairman said the explanation of the Accountant General on why funds are taken from the Recovery Account was not justifiable.
Addressing representative of the AGF, he said “You have the financial regulations in front of you. I want you to read the sections that talks about payment from revenue accounts, what should happen to a revenue account and at what point monies can be taken from the Consolidated Revenue Fund. It is a consolidated account.
“That explanation is not satisfactory. Even when the Accountant General came here, we told him that was not satisfactory because there should be regulations on the operations of the recovery account.
“The fact that you decided to start the TSA does not in any way amend the constitution or the Financial Regulations. The constitution is clear on the payment of revenue from federal government accounts. It is not at the discretion of the accountant General to do that. You cannot change the constitution, you cannot change the financial regulations just because it suits you.
“Because funds has been transferred to the Falcon I from recovered funds and our responsibility as a committee is to find out the position of the management of recovered fund, we will have to invite the contractors and the Nigeria Navy to come and tell us how they have managed the looted funds transferred to them for this project.
“What we have done or what we are doing is to bring some semblance of sanity to the management of public funds. When Nigeria decided that it was going to recover loots, it was part of the fight against corruption and the whole essence of that is that the fight against corruption was going to be transparent and transparency means that recovered funds should be used judiciously”.
But the representative of Accountant General and Head of Funds of the office of the Accountant General, Sabo Mohammed told the committee that the Accountant General only processes payments based on approvals.
He said “We do not habitually pay money from any source without the necessary approvals if we have approvals that payment should be made from a particular account, we have no option than to obey and pay from that account. We have to paid to pay money from any source.”
“We operate the TSA and all accounts are subset of the CRF. The recovery account is operated as a subset of the CRF”, he said.
On the part of the Police force, the representative of the Inspector General of Police and the Deputy Inspector General of Police in charge of Force Criminal Investigation Department, DIG FCID, Joseph Egbunike told the Committee that the Police had been able to recover over 400 million dollars in addition to some immovable property.
By he could not categorically say who is in custody of the immovable assets recovered by the force, a development that forced the panel to conclude that the Police does not have proper record keeping mechanism.
Also queried was the inability of the police to keep proper records of monies recovered by them and not being in a position to explain why the force does not have a recovery account like other agencies.
The Committee chairman said “most of the agencies have a recovery account where they pay money into. But the police don’t seem to have that. You have heard us talk about NSA recovery account, EFCC recovery account etc. That way, it is easier to track what has been paid into the account.
“We are looking at the gaps in the recovery process. You don’t have account and it means that you don’t have proper records of what has been paid. Yes, there are one or two instances of payment. But it gives the impression that the police just pay tithe in what they recover. That is a wrong procedure and it gives room for stealing,” he said.
The panel at this point asked the representative of the Inspector General of Police to go and reconcile his records and report back to it on Friday with information on where all recovered immovable items where located, whether they have been disposed of or not.
It also resolved to pay physical oversight visit to the locations of these immovable assets so recovered.