Needed: Looted Funds Investment Agency
Only last week, agents of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission [EFCC] raided an apartment on the 7th floor of a fourbedroom apartment at Osborne Towers located at 16 Osborne Road, Ikoyi, Lagos and made a startling discovery. 43.4m US dollars, N23.2m and £27,800 were discovered hidden in drawers and cabinets. It was said that a whistleblower alerted EFCC’s Lagos office, which swooped down on the apartment. Surprisingly it has taken many days without the public getting to know who owns the money. All those that were mentioned as the alleged owners, including a government security agency, have denied ownership and a court has ordered that the money be deposited in the Central Bank of Nigeria, CBN.
Before the recent find, the most startling discovery made by EFCC was early in February when its agents recovered nearly $10m hidden in a rundown house at Sabon Tasha, Kaduna belonging to former Group Managing Director of the Nigeria National Petroleum Corporation, Mr. Andrew Yakubu. The “special operation” conducted on February 3, 2017 found the monies hidden in a fire-proof safe. It included $9,772,800 and another £74,000. That money was forfeited on an interim basis following a court order. Though Yakubu filed a court case to try to retrieve the money, saying it was a gift from well wishers, he later withdrew the case.
Last month, EFCC also announced that it intercepted N49m abandoned at Kaduna airport by persons whose identities are not yet disclosed. The money was said to have been found in giant Ghana Must Go bags which were however unattended to, and its agents swooped in and carted them off. Nor were these the only finds made by EFCC. Sometime last year, money in billions of naira were said to have been discovered at a farm allegedly belonging to a politician in Nasarawa State. Not much has been heard of that money since the discovery and it never received the publicity that subsequent EFCC recoveries made. Then also, there were reports of the luxury high-rise building on Banana Island, Ikoyi, Lagos, which EFCC reportedly recovered from former Minister of Petroleum Resources Diezani Alison-Madueke. The building was said to cost $37m. Diezani was said to have purchased the building between 2011 and 2012.
These were only the best known of the recoveries. Apart from them, money in billions of naira and its foreign currency equivalents were also reportedly retrieved from many officials of the former Jonathan regime who partook in the sharing of monies meant for weapons purchases. The presidential committee that probed that “Dasukigate scandal” together with EFCC and police recovered sums from many politicians, businessmen and others. Then there were also the mansions, commercial buildings as well as huge sums of money retrieved from military chiefs, especially the former chiefs of Air Staff.
Put together, these monies and other assets are huge indeed. It is a pity that Nigerians do not yet have accurate figures of the discoveries and recoveries. Last year, the government promised that President Muhammadu Buhari would disclose the amounts so far retrieved in his first anniversary national broadcast, but it was shelved at the last minute. EFCC’s Acting Chairman Ibrahim Magu, too, failed to give an estimate of the recovered sums during his Senate screening, or since then.
We believe it is time to put things in order. Government and its agencies as well as the courts should not endlessly go about recovering and retrieving looted funds without the most thorough accountability before the Nigerian people. The case of the Abacha loot readily comes to mind. Hundreds of millions of dollars and pounds were retrieved from family members and associates of the late dictator, only to be re-looted again by officials. Most horrendous in this regard was the revelation that former National Security Adviser Colonel Sambo Dasuki got a small committee to recommend to President Goodluck Jonathan the release of those monies to him for alleged security operations.
We are not alleging that EFCC or other agencies are visiting current funds with the Dasuki treatment but unless the most transparent accounting is done of these monies, the possibility of abuse cannot be ruled out, now or in the future. Transparent accounting is only the first step. We also recommend that a law be enacted which should set out a carefully thought out policy of putting these monies to the best use of the people. For, by the time the court cases end and the authorities secure permanent orders of forfeiture, the best that will happen is that these monies will be funnelled into the Federal treasury or even the Federation Account for sharing by the three tiers of government. Such an outcome will be unsatisfactory because the monies will disappear without visible trace in a renewed cycle of corruption, misapplication, wrong priorities and budget padding.
We therefore lend our voices to the creation of a Special Looted Funds Investment Agency with a clear mandate to channel the funds into a clearly identified area of national need such intervention in education, health care, child nutrition or rural water supply. The board of trustees of such a fund should be men and women of unimpeachable integrity but the fund should also have in place systems and processes that checkmate human weaknesses. We believe that Nigerians deserve such an arrangement after the multiple trauma and jeopardy that we have been through with this business of looted funds. It will be doubly tragic if, after all is said and done, these monies are recovered and we neither see nor hear anything about them again, until the next national loot recovery exercise.
EFCC acting Chairman, Ibrahim Magu