Three Senior Advocates of Nigeria (SAN); Prof. Itse Sagay, Dr. Biodun Layonu, Mr. Seyi Sowemimo and the second Vice-President of the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA), Mr. Monday Ubani, have said that the sums of $43,449,947, £27,800 and N23,218,000 totalling about N15 billion recovered by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) from an apartment in Ikoyi area of Lagos were far in excess of what an agency of government can keep.
They made the observation while reacting to reported claim by the National Intelligence Agency (NIA), Nigeria’s external secret police, that it owns the money. In an interview with New Telegraph, the Chairman of the Presidential Advisory Committee Against Corruption (PACAP), Sagay (SAN) said keeping such a huge amount of money in a private apartment leaves a very huge room for corruption.
He said: “It’s improper to keep such a huge sum of money in a private apartment. Apart from the fact that the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) should have control of custody of such money, it also leaves a very huge opportunity for terrible corruption. “There are so many issues on this matter. One of such is to find out if this present government is aware of the fund beforehand.
The National Intelligence Agency (NIA) has to offer some explanations on whether or not it informed the present government about it and the purpose of the money. If this is not done, there are grave implications.
“Though the NIA is not supposed to be transparent, but keeping such money in a private apartment is not consistent with the anti-corruption stance of the present administration.
At least, the president, who happened to be the chief boss of the agency, must be aware of its operations and the money in question. It would amount to a very grave breach of trust if the president knew nothing about the money.”
Also speaking on the issue, Dr. Layonu (SAN) said the recovered money is far beyond what an intelligence agency working for government should have in a private apartment.
He said: “In my personal opinion, I think the recovered money is far beyond what an intelligent agency working for government should have in a private apartment for any operation for that matter.
“If we are talking about half a million or one million dollars, I would say it’s not unusual for government agency to keep, particularly if there is a record somewhere that such an amount of money is in possession of an agency of government.”I cannot see any justification for keeping such a huge sum in a private apartment.
What kind of operations are you into that you have to keep such amount of money in a private apartment? “On the propriety or otherwise of keeping such a large sum of money in a private apartment, I think if NIA is truly laying claim to the money and now that the issue has been made public, it is highly necessary that a political authority should speak out on the issue.
“If a government agency is laying claim to such huge sums and considering the circumstances in which the money was found, it means somebody somewhere has failed in his or her duties.
It’s very bad and embarrassing.” Another silk, Sowemimo, also queried the rationale behind the keeping of such huge fund in a private apartment by the NIA. “I don’t know why such huge public fund should be kept in a private apartment. We even have no clue as to what the money is meant for.
The action of the NIA in keeping the money is also suspicious, particularly, in this era of discoveries of funds here and there by the EFCC. I think we need to get to the bottom of this matter as it doesn’t reflect well on the NIA and until the agency explained how the money is connected with its statutory duties, I don’t see how the discovery can be justified, though NIA is supposed to be a security outfit in which not much is expected to be disclosed about their covet activities.
The second Vice-President of the NBA, Mr. Monday Ubani, was also of the view that government might be breaching its own anti-money laundering law by keeping such a huge amount of money in a house.
He said: “The critical questions to be asked are:
(1) Why is government money not in the bank but in a private home? Is government not in breach of its anti-laundering law by keeping such large sums in the house?
(2) Who is the true owner of that house where the money was discovered?
(3) If it was money approved by the previous government, why was it not spent for the purpose approved and why was it not returned to the treasury if not spent? (4) Is the house where the money was found the office of NIA?
(5) How long has that money been kept there or was it not brought there recently that attracted the attention of the diligent whistle-blower?
(6) Will the hardworking and diligent whistle-blower get at least 2.5 per cent of his fees for a labourer is worthy of his or her wages?”But, Chief Niyi Akintola (SAN) sees nothing strange in NIA keeping such huge money. His words: “NIA is a secret organisation and it can keep money anywhere it deems fit. The truth of the matter is that the NIA is our own FBI or CIA.
Sometimes, these secret organisations carry out espionage activities which may be noble or not. They also spend money in the process. They buy information. “The only thing that is baffling me is lack of synergy among our security agencies.
That is my concern now. Why should our security agencies be working at cross purposes? I asked this question because if the money actually belongs to the NIA, why are they not aware that the EFCC is about to carry out a raid on where the money was kept?
What is the work of the DSS? If there has been synergy among all the security agencies, the EFCC wouldn’t have gone to the place in the first place. “What has happened is an embarrassment to the presidency and the president. It’s an indication that there is no understanding or synergy among the security agencies.”