• Wike seeks divine intervention for return of N13.3bn found in Ikoyi
• NIA sources deny any link between N13.3bn and Jonathan’s campaign
By Ernest Chinwo in Port Harcourt and Olawale Ajimotokan with agency report
With the dust raised over the N13.3 billion recovered from an apartment in Ikoyi, Lagos yet to settle, the federal government yesterday revealed that the anti-corruption agencies have been inundated with information of how looters have resorted to burying stolen funds in their backyards, deep forests and burial grounds.
The Minister of Information and Culture, Lai Mohammed, who disclosed this in a statement issued in Lagos, said the whistle blower policy was working and has led to the recovery of more looted funds in many currencies.
In a statement by his Special Adviser, Segun Adeyemi, Mohammed said all the recovered funds were safe and government would provide a full account to Nigerians on the recoveries.
The minister thanked Nigerians for their enthusiasm and commitment in helping the government to tackle corruption through the disclosure of useful leads to the appropriate government agencies.
“Since we launched the whistle blower policy, we have received immeasurable support from Nigerians.
“Yes, there is a monetary reward for any information that leads to the recovery of looted funds, but from what we have seen, most of the Nigerians who have come forward with useful leads were driven by patriotism rather than reward.
“Nigerians, fired by a fervid resolve to help banish corruption from their country, have daily inundated the offices of the appropriate government agencies with valuable information.
“We have been told how looters have resorted to burying stolen funds in their backyards, in deep forests and even in burial grounds.
“Thanks to whistle blowers, it is now clear that a rapacious few have pillaged the nation’s wealth through a vicious orgy of corrupt practices,” he said.
The minister was of the view that more funds were in the possession of looters than to government at all levels to meets its obligations including paying workers’ salaries and providing social amenities.
“’As the looters continue to run helter-skelter, many of them are even abandoning their booty at unusual places, including airports. We want to assure Nigerians that we will not abandon this policy for whatever reason,” he said.
He stressed that government will continue to rejig the policy and make it more effective as a tool for fighting corruption.
The minister assured the public that as soon as the necessary reconciliation process and the litigation in some of the cases are concluded, government would give a full account of the recoveries to Nigerians.
Mohammed reassured Nigerians with useful information on looted funds that the government will protect their identities and give them their stipulated reward.
But as the minister waxed lyrical over the whistle blowing policy, the Rivers State governor, Nyesom Wike, who on behalf of his state has claimed ownership of the cash discovered at the Lagos luxury apartment last week, turned to God to ensure that the funds he alleged were pillaged by his predecessor, Rotimi Amaechi, were returned to his state.
Speaking during the Easter church service at Saint Peter’s Anglican Church in Rumuepirikom, Wike said the church has a responsibility to pray that God touches the federal government to return the money to the coffers of Rivers State, because the money belongs to the state government.
He said: “We need the prayers of the church because there is nothing that prayers cannot do. Pray that God should touch the Government of Nigeria, so that they will return the money to us. What we are interested is for the money to come back to us.”
Wike maintained that contrary to the “false propaganda” being peddled by Amaechi, he has not declared war on the federal government, adding that the Rivers State Government was simply requesting for the return of the funds belonging to the state.
He said: “I cannot declare war on the Federal Government. Anybody bringing Buhari’s name into this matter should leave Buhari and face his own problems. The issue is: who kept the money at the Ikoyi residence?
“The money was kept there by the Minister of Transportation, Rotimi Amaechi.”
The governor vowed that “no amount of blackmail, no amount of distraction will stop us from getting our money”.
He said that between 70 and 80 per cent of the All Progressives Congress (APC) campaigns in 2015 were sponsored using funds sourced from the Rivers State Government under the leadership of Amaechi.
The governor said that the selective war against corruption would not help development in the country.
He wondered why security intelligence works against opponents of the federal government, but when glaring corruption issues pop up like the Ikoyi case, where millions of dollars allegedly belonging to Rivers State have been found, the war against corruption is suspended and diversionary tactics adopted.
The vicar of the church, Venerable Israel Omosioni, prayed to God to grant the request of Rivers people for the Ikoyi billions to be returned.
He said with the execution of projects across the state by Wike, additional funds would assist the government achieve more for the state.
The church resolved to start the prayers, which would be sustained till the funds are returned, he said.
Meanwhile, reliable sources in the National Intelligence Agency (NIA) have dismissed the attempt by certain groups to link the cash found at the Ikoyi apartment to the Goodluck Jonathan campaign organisation, insisting the funds belong to the intelligence agency.
An official from the NIA who spoke to THISDAY yesterday said the NIA was aghast at the attempt to smear the past administration after its director general had gone public with the ownership of the cash.
He said: “The NIA has made it clear that the cash belongs to them and it was meant for a covert operation which the EFCC unfortunately blew.
“For obvious reasons, we cannot divulge what the covert operation was, but that does not give anyone the right to propagate outright lies, saying that the money was from the campaign of the former president.
“We have seen a few reports alleging that paraphernalia linked to the former president’s campaign organisation were discovered in the apartment. But all this is false and has no basis whatsoever,” the NIA source said.