NSA denies knowledge of over $44m recovered from Osborne Towers Ikoyi, Lagos

•President directs return of another $44.247m found in NIA office after probe •Confirms recovery of N9.327bn, $7.432m recovered during audit •As Reps chide Police over lack of record for over $400m, other immovable property reportedly recovered

The Office of the National Security Adviser (NSA), Major General Babagana Monguno, has denied knowledge of the $44 million recovered from the Nigeria Intelligence Agency (NIA) office located at Osborne Towers, Ikoyi Lagos State by operatives of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) in 2017.

In his testimony, ONSA’s Director of Finance and Administration, Brig. General Ja’afaru Mohammed, who testified before the Ad-hoc Committee investigating on the ‘Assessment and recovered loot from 2002 to 2020’, dismissed the allegation levelled against the ONSA by the acting EFCC chairman, Abdulrasheed Bawa when he appeared before the Committee last week.

Aside from the $44 million recovered by the EFCC from the NIA Osborne Tower, Ikoyi Lagos State, Gen. Mohammed disclosed that the sum of $44,247,300 found in the custody of NIA at the peak of the investigation was taken to the NSA account but was later returned on the directive of the President after the conclusion of the investigation.

According to him, “at the height of the crisis in NIA, Mr President directed and set up a committee headed by the Vice President and the then Minister of Finance, Mrs Kemi Adeosun and the then NSA, three of them. So in the course of that investigation, I was tasked to go and take over the office of Finance in the office of the NIA in the interim, that time.

“So when I got there they said okay, all the funds there I should count and document them properly. 

“The one that I actually took over that time, I was asked to move the money to NSA and keep. That time the investigation was going on, it’s not that the money was looted. No, that I should keep that money until when they finish their investigation. 

“So I moved the money to NSA. Then when they concluded their investigation, Mr President directed that we should return the money back to NIA and that was the money we returned and were presented the certificate that we returned the money back to NIA.”

He disclosed that money amounted to $44,247,300. He however noted that the money recovered from Osborne Towers which was recovered by EFCC was not with the NSA.

He further noted that the ONSA which “coordinates the activities of the intelligence community and investigative agencies, does not carry out recovery on its own, except the ones Mr President directs otherwise.”

Mohammed noted that from the inception of this administration in 2015, a Committee was constituted to audit all the arms procurement and expenditures.

According to him, the committee which drew its members from various intelligence services including EFCC commenced its assignment in ONSA, and opened an account designated as NSA Recovery Account domiciled with the Central Bank of Nigeria.

“By the time the Committee was winding down its task, all funds recovered amounting to N9,326,839,527.40 and $7,432,277 were recovered and deposited in the savings account respectively.”

He however noted that the account was later re-designated as Federal Government Recovery Account.

On the NIA recovered fund, the NSA disclosed that: “The operation that was carried out at Osborne Towers Ikoyi Lagos was planned and executed by EFCC operatives. ONSA was neither part of the team that recovered the funds, nor were the funds handed over to ONSA at any point of the recovery.

“However, for the avoidance of doubt, there were issues of funds belonging to an intelligence outfit that was taken out of the abode and was later returned to the outfit on the directive of Mr President. Evidence of the deposit of the fund is hereby attached.”

The lawmakers also queried the sum of N6.1 billion paid into the NSA account domiciled with CBN account in August 2017 and returned in January 2018.

In his response, the NSA representatives disclosed that the amount was paid into $459 million for Falcon I contract was awarded in 2014 but money paid to NSA account, not on request since it was not appropriated for, hence urged the company to appear before the Committee for further explanation.

He noted that the company was under investigation at the time and the NSA resolved that the money was returned back to the CBN, he however noted that the same amount was paid to the contractor after it was cleared.

When confronted with the question over series of debits amounting to N10 billion, the NSA representatives who argued that no money was withdrawn from the account, noted that “there were issues of bounced cheques, not that there was any withdrawal based on my knowledge.”

While noting that the NSA does not operate the account and has no mandate to make any withdrawal, he however urged the lawmakers to direct all inquiries to the Chairman of the Committee on Recovery as alleged, saying: “The chairman of that committee should come and explain that.”

On her part, Hon Taiwo Oluga observed that the sum of $20 million credited into the same account and on the same day, as well as inflow and outflow of cash. 

According to her, an additional sum of 115 million was also recorded about three days after the first transaction.

He observed that the funds were transferred to the Falcon I project domicile in the office of the National Security Adviser, but Monguno told the Committee that such transfer was the sole responsibility of the Accountant General of the Federation. 

He explained that “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.

“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.”

He also denied knowledge on the Euros account discovered by the lawmakers, adding that all inquiries should be directed to the Committee on Arms and Defence Equipment Procurement, which opened the controversial account(s).

But Gen. Mohammed insisted that since the ONSA has nothing to do with recovered funds, the chairman of the Presidential Committee on Arms and Defence Equipment Procurement, should be invited to explain the operations of the account.

In his response, representative of Accountant General and Head of Funds of the office of the Accountant General, Sabo Mohammed explained that the Accountant General only process 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 other than to obey and pay from that account. We have to pay money from any source.

“We operate the TSA and all accounts are a subset of the CRF. The recovery account is operated as a subset of the CRF.”

On his part, representative of the Inspector General of Police and the Deputy Inspector General of Police in charge of Force Criminal Investigation Department, Joseph Egbunike disclosed that the Police had been able to recover over $400 million in addition to some immovable property.

He however could not account for who was in the custody of the immovable sets recovered by the force, compelling the committee to conclude that the police does not have a proper record keeping method.

The Committee also frowned at the Police for failing 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 done seems 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 an 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.”

The lawmakers however asked the IGP representative to reconcile his records and report back to the Committee on Friday with information on where all recovered immovable items were located, whether they have been disposed of or not.

While ruling, Hon. Adejoro invited the Chairman, Committee on Arms and Defence Equipment Procurement, Air Vice Marshal Odey to appear before the Committee to explain his role in the controversial accounts on the disbursement of funds from the account.

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