Nigeria’s former Finance Minster may have a lot of explanations to do as long as the anti-corruption campaign of the current administration is on. The latest in the series is the online report that surfaced yesterday, which accused the former minister, Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala of illegally diverting N61.4 billion from the returned loot of the late head of state Sani Abacha, which was returned to Nigeria in January 2015. The report said that she gave the said amount to the embattled former National Security Adviser (NSA), Col. Sambo Dasuki.
And like has always been the case, the former minister has released a statement, through her media adviser, Paul C. Nwabuikwu, reacting to the allegation, while showing the facts behind the disbursement of the said funds to the Office of the National Security Adviser (ONSA).
Okonjo-Iweala also stated that any attempt to link her efforts to any purpose other than security was baseless and frowned at the fact that she was being targeted by “corrupt interests” whose objective was to tarnish her image.
Read the statement below:
“As part of the campaign of falsehood against former Minister of Finance, Dr Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala by Edo Governor, Adams Oshiomhole and other powerful and corrupt interests, another baseless story has been published by some online media. To achieve their evil propaganda objective of tarnishing her name, these evil elements have distorted the contents of a memo dated January 20, 2015 in which the former Minister of Finance, Dr Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala responded to a request by the former National Security Adviser, Col Ibrahim Dasuki (retired) for funds to prosecute the terror war against Boko Haram.
Here are the facts:
- The central responsibility of the Minister of Finance is to find sources of funding for the financing of approved national priorities such as security, job creation and infrastructure.
- It will be recalled that 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 $322m were returned with another $700m 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 of 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 $322m for the military operations, while the expected $700m 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:
- 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
- the money was to be treated as borrowed funds which would be paid back as soon as possible
- 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.
The attempt to link the former Minister’s 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.”
Paul C. Nwabuikwu
Media Adviser to Dr. Okonjo-Iweala
Furthermore, Premium Times revealed a memo by Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala to the former president, Goodluck Jonathan, dated January 20, 2015, in which she stated that 50 per cent of the recently recovered Abacha loot was allotted for the procurement of arms and ammunition while the other half was set aside to be used for development purposes.
The memo reads:
“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).”
Is it time for the Federal Government to leave Dr. Okonjo-Iweala alone or do you think she still has a lot to answer for? Comment below…