Former Minister of Finance Ngozi Okonjo Iweala yesterday said she had paid former National Security Adviser to the President, Col Sambo Dasuki (rtd) $322m (about GHS1.2billion) from recovered Abacha funds to finance military operations.
She was reacting to online media reports that accused her of illegally diverting the Abacha funds to the office of the former NSA. The money was returned to Nigeria in January 2015.
The statement signed by her Media Adviser, Paul C Nwabuikwu, said the attempt to link the former minister to any misuse of the funds for any purpose other than security was baseless.
She explained that based on a request by Dasuki, former president Goodluck Jonathan set up a committee comprising of the former Minister of Justice, the former NSA and herself to determine how best to use both the returned and expected funds for development.
Okonjo-Iweala said when the committee met, the NSA made a case for using the returned funds for urgent security operations arguing that there could not 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,” the minister said.
However, Okonjo-Iweala said as captured in the memo, she insisted on three conditions: A. only a part, not the entire Abacha funds, would be spent on the arms; the rest would be invested in development projects as originally conceived B. the money was to be treated as borrowed funds which would be paid back as soon as possible C. 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.
Mrs Okonjo-Iweala’s memo to the president, seen by PREMIUM TIMES, showed that 50 per cent of the recently recovered Abacha loot was allotted for “urgent security need” such as the procurement of arms and ammunition while the other half was set aside to be used for development purposes.
The letter, dated January 20, 2015, which was addressed to Mr Jonathan, revealed that the money was transferred following a January 12, 2015 request by the office of the NSA under Mr Dasuki for funds for the procurement of arms and ammunition as well as intelligence equipment.
“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 letter read.
“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),” Mrs Okojo-Iweala wrote.
The former NSA, Dasuki is currently on trial in connection with $2.1 billion arms scam. He is being accused of spending a total of N643 billion in extra-budgetary expenditure.
Also arrested for the alleged fraud are former Sokoto state governor Attahiru Bafarawa and Chairman Africa Independent Television (AIT) Raymond Dokpesi.
Both Bafarawa and Dokopesi are said have been paid N4.6 billion and N2.1 billion respectively for unstated purposes.