Thursday, 10 December 2015

The Story “Illegal Diversion” Of N61.4 Billion Abacha Funds is “Part of a Campaign of Falsehood” to “Tarnish My Image” - Okonjo-Iweala

Nigeria’s former Minister of Finance and Coordinating Minister of the Economy, Dr Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala has dismissed allegations that she illegally authorised the diversion of recently recovered Abacha loot during the administration of former president, Goodluck Jonathan.

Dr Okonjo-Iweala described the allegation as “part of a campaign of falsehood” to “tarnish her image” in a statement on Wednesday by her media adviser, Paul Nwabuikwu.

The former minister noted that the contents of a memo dated January 20, 2015 in which she responded to a request by the former National Security Adviser, Col Ibrahim Dasuki (retired) for funds to prosecute the war against Boko Haram, was “distorted”.

To set the records straight, the statement maintained that “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”.

The statement also “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), the statement said.

It further noted that “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”.

Mr Nwabuikwu maintained that “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 developmental 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”.

He insisted that “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.

Dr Okonjo-Iweala is alleged to have illegally approved the transfer of at least N61.4 billion ($300 million and £5.5 million) from funds recovered from late dictator, Sani Abacha, to the Office of the National Security Adviser, Sambo Dasuki, for “urgent security needs”.


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