The controversy surrounding the discovery of huge sums of dollars by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) has taken a dramatic turn as the Rivers State government and the National Intelligence Agency (NIA) have both claimed ownership of the money.
Speaking to journalists on Friday, Rivers State governor, Nyesom Wike was quoted to have said that the money found in an Ikoyi apartment in Lagos belongs to his state.
This came after former PDP Acting Chairman Uche Secondus alleged that the money belongs to the Rivers State government.
Secondus spoke in Port Harcourt on Thursday when over 7,500 members of the All Progressives Congress defected to the PDP in Rivers State.
“About $43 million (and other cash) was found in a house in Ikoyi. And I believe that the monies belong to Rivers State. We want (Ibrahim) Magu and EFCC to announce the owner of that money and if possible return the money to Rivers State,” PUNCH quoted Secondus as saying.
Wike said that the money was gotten from the sale of gas turbines by Minister of Transportation Rotimi Amaechi, who was the immediate past governor of the state.
Wike was quoted to have sad that the state is giving the federal government 7 days ultimatum to return the money.
“The money in question belongs to the former Rivers State Governor, Chibuike Rotimi Amaechi. We want to confirm that the houses in Ikoyi also belong to Chibuike Rotimi Amaechi.
If you recollect in 2015, we said that gas turbines built by Former Governor Peter Odili were sold to Sahara Energy, business partners of Chibuike Rotimi Amaechi at $319million.
That money was used to sponsor the All Progressives Congress (APC) for the 2015 general elections. From the date of sale of the gas turbines to May 29, 2015, the money depleted from $319million to $204,000. What was stashed at the Ikoyi residence was part of that fund.
We have facts to prove that the said money belongs to the Rivers State Government. The Federal Government must return our money.
As I speak to you, the Federal Government is so embarrassed that this has happened. All the stories that the money belongs to the NIA are fake.
We are giving them seven days to return our money. Otherwise, we would take legal action to recover our money. $43million will help us complete several projects. We need that money for projects,” he said.
Wike also called for investigation into the ownership of the money, adding that a panel of inquiry should be set up and it should sit publicly.
He said that until the federal government stops disturbing the state, it will continue to be thrown into frustration.
Amaechi was reported to have denied having anything to do with the money or the building/apartment where it was found.
Sahara Reporters, in a report published Friday night said that the Director-General of the National Intelligence Agency, Ayodele Oke has claimed that the funds belonged to his agency.
Oke said this in a meeting which was attended by the EFCC Chairman, Ibrahim Magu; Attorney-General of the Federation (AGF) Abubakar Malami, and the National Security Adviser, Babagana Monguno.
An NIA source told PUNCH that before the EFCC stormed the Ikoyi property on Wednesday, Oke had told him that the apartment is NIA’s safe house. However, Magu was said to have gone ahead to use minimal force to break into the apartment and the fireproof cabinets where the monies were stashed.
“The money belongs to the NIA. It is for covert operations and security projects covering a period of years.The DG has met with the President, he has explained everything to him. The President asked him to put everything into writing and he has done so.
The entire chain of events was a big misunderstanding. That place was an NIA safe house and you have to understand that the NIA carries out discreet investigation in conjunction with many agencies across the world.
On the day the EFCC men gathered around the house, the NIA reached out to Magu to explain to him that the money was the property of the Federal Government and the place was an NIA safe house. Unfortunately, the EFCC still went ahead to break down the doors,” the source was quoted as saying.
While no official statement has been released by the NIA, various reports have claimed that the money was released to the NIA during the previous administration for several “covert operations”.
The NIA is the agency charged with foreign intelligence operations.
According to Sahara Reporters, a source said that when Buhari was informed of the claims that the money belonged to the NIA, the president was “alarmed at such claim saying that he did not expect any Nigerian government agency to keep government funds in a private house, no matter the nature of its operations.”
Femi Adesina, President Buhari’s Media Adviser when contacted to comment on the issue said: “This is not a matter for the Presidency. It is a security issue and I will advise you to get across to the agencies mentioned.”
Buhari, it was gathered, told the NIA DG to apply for fresh funds from the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) for their operations and the seized funds should remain in the CBN where the EFCC had deposited it following a temporary forfeiture order.
A Federal High Court in Lagos had ruled that the money be temporarily forfeited to the federal government and the owner(s) of the monies should appear before it before May 5 to say why it should not be permanently forfeited to FG.
As it stands, ownership of the money remains a mystery to Nigerians, and no official statement has been released by any agency of the federal government in that regard.