We are not in custody of the money – NSA
By Christiana Ekpa
The House of Representatives yesterday asked the office of the National Security Adviser to provide details of the 44 million dollars recovered from the Nigeria Intelligence Agency by Economic and Financial Crime Commission in 2017, even as the Agency denied that it was not in custody of the money.
Director of Finance and Admin in the Office of the National Security Adviser, Brig. General Ja’afaru Mohammed revealed before the House Adhoc committee investigating the management of recovered fund 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 NIA office in Ikoyi was in the custody of the Office of the National Security Adviser.
But Mohammed told 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 of the NIA which has been returned to the office 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”.
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 the 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account with the Central Bank of Nigeria, adding that the money can only be deposited into the account, but none can be withdrawn from it.
Members of the committee however insisted that there were discrepancies between the presentation of the ONSA and record presented to it by the Office of the Accountant General of the Federation an insisting on further clarification, especially on the inward and outward flow of funds into the account.
But General Mohammed insisted that since the ONSA has nothing to do with recovered funds, the Chairman of the Presidential Committee should be invited to explain the operations of the account.
The Committee however observed that funds from the recovery account was transferred to the Falcom I project domicile in the office of the National Security Adviser, but Mohammed told the Committee that such transfer was the sole responsibility of the Accountant General of the Federation.
While frowning at spending 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 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 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 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”.
However, 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.
He however could not account for who was in custody of the immovable sets recovered by the force, compelling the committee to conclude that the Police does not have proper record keeping method.
The Committee also frown at the police not keeping 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 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 committee however asked the representative of the Inspector General of Police to go and reconcile his records and report back to the committee on Friday with information on where all recovered immovable items where located.