More facts emerged at the weekend on the cash haul at Osborne Towers, Ikoyi, Lagos.
The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) had been on the trail of some high-profile tenants when stumbled upon the the $43.4 million, £27,000 and N23 million at House 6, Apartment 7B, it was learnt.
Four of the tenants have been quizzed, while a petition is pending against the fifth.
The building, it was learnt, had been under surveillance because of the tenants.
Sources said a whistle-blower alerted the EFCC about the apartment in which the huge cash was recovered.
When the EFCC moved in, a source said, it was unaware that the National Intelligence Agency (NIA) had a Safe Apartment there.
The high-profile tenants live in the building.
The anti-graft agency, according to the sources, had been trying to identify the tenants’ assets, including choice apartments in the towers.
The whistle-blower, it was learnt, might have had knowledge of the EFCC’s discreet investigation and decided to help.
But, as it turned out, the apartment does not belong to any of the tenants.
One of them was said to have sold his stake in the towers.
A source said: “As at the time of the EFCC’s operation on Wednesday, about five high-profile tenants, who are either being investigated or on the radar of the commission, were suspected to be living or having apartments there.
“Some of the tenants have been quizzed and others are undergoing investigation. Only one of them has an outstanding petition still being probed by EFCC detectives.”
“Among them are two former governors, a director of the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) and two prominent lawyers.
“So, when the whistle-blower raised the red flag, the EFCC was quick to move in without knowing that the 7B apartment is a safe house of the NIA.
“There was excitement in the Lagos Zonal office of the EFCC about a breakthrough. This was why the operation started between 10am and 11am,” the source said.
He said EFCC was hesitant to cooperate with the NIA.
A government official, who pleaded not to be named because of “the sensitivity” of the matter, spoke last night in what transpired between EFCC and NIA.
He said the EFCC did not set out to ridicule or embarrass the NIA. “It is unfortunate that this is the second time this type of incident is happening between the two agencies,” he said, adding:
“There was a case of some cash released for contingency assignment by presidential fiat through the NIA account. The release was based on the directive of ex-President Goodluck Jonathan.
“When the EFCC began the investigation of some Politically Exposed Persons (PEPs), it traced the movement of the cash to NIA account. Instead of seeking explanation from the Director-General of NIA, Ambassador Ayo Oke, the EFCC wrote directly to the Central Bank of Nigeria( CBN) to demand the details of the transactions on the said account.
“In fact, the documents obtained from CBN included other sensitive operations and overhead. The NIA took exception to it. When President Muhammadu Buhari intervened, he saw all the records that neither NIA DG nor any staff benefited from the said funds.
“NIA actually transferred the whole money as directed by the ex-President to another dedicated account. Subsequent EFCC investigation did not indict NIA. As for Wednesday’s operation, it was true that DG of NIA rushed to the Acting chairman of EFCC, Mr. Ibrahim Magu, who promised to intervene. The NIA boss only asked EFCC to retrieve the cash without making a public show of it in the media.
“At the time the NIA got in touch with EFCC, the operation was already midway and strategy wise, the EFCC chairman felt it would convey a different impression because a crowd had already gathered in and around the towers.”
Responding to a question, the source added: “The operation was based on the clues from the whistle-blower. The commission acted on intelligence. No one gave EFCC a list of safe houses of NIA. And the cash was also considered huge for NIA’s covert operations.”
According to the source, the EFCC secured clearance from a senior intelligence officer before continuing its operation after entreaties from the NIA.
”I think there was communication gap somewhere and lack of synergy between the security and intelligence agencies,” he said, adding:
“This incident will serve as a lesson for all the agencies to cooperate and share intelligence.”
Nigerians have continued to raise questions about the ownership of the mystery cash, which the NIA has claimed.
Among the questions is that if the money was meant for operations, why has it not been spent in two years? Was there any need for it, considering how long it has stayed unspent?
Rivers State Governor Nyesom Wike has said the money belongs to the state. If it is not returned in seven days, said the governor, the state will launch a legal battle to recover it.
He said it was the proceed of the state’s gas turbine sold by the Rotimi Amaechi administration.
Amaechi denied the claim, saying he had nothing to do with the money. He challenged Wike to prove the allegation.
About N16billion has been recovered by the EFCC in the last few days in Lagos.
About N12,360,814,000 and N4billion were traced to private accounts.
On December 22, last year, the Federal Government launched the whistle blowing policy to expose fraud and other related crimes in public and private sectors.
The Minister of Finance, Mrs. Kemi Adeosun, said: “If there is a voluntary return of stolen or concealed public funds or assets on the account of the information provided, the whistle blower may be entitled to anywhere between 2.5 per cent (minimum) and 5.0 per cent (maximum) of the total amount recovered.”
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