By Olawale Ajimotokan in Abuja
The Senior Special Assistant to the President on Media and Publicity, Mallam Garba Shehu said the probe launched by President Muhammadu Buhari into the hidden cash discovered by EFFC in Ikoyi, Lagos, which the Nigeria Intelligence Agency (NIA) has claimed it belonged to it was because the president was not properly put in the picture about the situation.
In a seismic move that jolted the nation, President Buhari had on Wednesday suspended the Director-General of NIA, Ambassador Ayo Oke, over the mystery surrounding the $43million, N23million and £27,000 stashed in one of the apartments at No 6 Osborne Road, Ikoyi. He has also set up a three- man committee headed by Vice President Yemi Osinbajo to unravel the allegations of corruption and breach of security procedure levied against the NIA boss.
The probe panel which has the Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami and National Security Adviser, Maj Gen, Babagana Monguno as the other members, has a timeline of two weeks within when it is to submit its report.
Speaking on Arise News Network yesterday, Shehu said that Buhari would not have opted for a panel if he had been properly informed about the circumstances of the money by NIA.
“This why there is a panel of investigation by the government to clear the air about the controversy. I think the president would not have set up this panel or undertaken this action had he been put properly in the picture on everything concerning the claim,’’ Shehu said.
It would be recalled that as soon as the anti- corruption agency, EFCC, acting on a tip off, recovered the money from one of the apartments, an objection was raised by NIA, claiming the money was meant for its covet operation.
EFCC has since secured a court order allowing an interim forfeiture of the cash.
Though Shehu admitted that NIA was an unusual government agency that was treated specially, unlike other government agencies, in relation to the rules on use of money, he said something had apparently gone amiss to warrant Oke’s indefinite suspension.
“What I would say is that it (NIA) is an unusual arm of government. Therefore, rules that apply on the regular arms of government –the Ministries, Agencies and Departments- certainly do not apply to them. I guess that something had gone amiss and is why the president felt that a high power committee led by Vice- president needs to come in and help him understand why this happened,” Shehu stressed.
Buhari had suspended the NIA DG along the influential Secretary to the Government of Federation (SGF) David Babachir Lawal for corruption related allegations.
Lawal, was indicted by a Senate Committee over allegation of corruption in contract awards at the Presidential Initiative on the North East (PINE), by influencing grass cutting contract to the tune of N200m to be awarded to companies he had interest in.