Resolving the $50million Debacle

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A thorough, transparent and conclusive investigation into the recovered N13.3billions from an Ikoyi flat in Lagos is the only way out of this national embarrassment. Olawale Olaleye writes

The constitution of a presidential panel by President Muhammadu Buhari, last Wednesday, to probe the discovery of N13.3billion in a flat in Ikoyi penultimate Thursday and the suspension of the Director-General of the National Intelligence Agency (NIA), Ambassador Ayodele Oke, appears to be the only concrete steps that had been taken by the presidency since the controversy surrounding the discovery broke.

Both the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) and the NIA have since the development refused to make any official statement on the matter.

But the president, on Wednesday, took the initiative and ordered a full scale investigation into the discovery of the large amount of foreign and local currencies by the EFCC in the apartment at Osborne Towers, Ikoyi, Lagos. The NIA had already laid claim to the money as funds for its covert operations. Though Oke has not been indicted, his suspension was hinged on the need to ensure unhindered probe.

A committee of three persons led by Vice-President Yemi Osinbajo with Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami, and National Security Adviser, Babagana Monguno, as members, has been mandated by the president to conduct the investigation and turn in its report in 14 days.

And in the meantime, the most senior Permanent Secretary in the office of the SGF and the most senior officer in the NIA, are to act, respectively during the period of investigation
The development, to say the least, has been the most embarrassing to a majority of Nigerians, who know the import of the negative tag of the latest discovery and the embarrassment caused by the initial poor handling of the issue for the country in the eyes of the international community, and had been calling for details of what really transpired at the flat since only a conclusive investigation can save the country from further embarrassment.

Senate President Bukola Saraki, had in his reaction to the controversy trailing the discovery, said: “I believe this is something simple that the organisation (EFCC) should manage, even before the speculation started coming out. The circus has to come to an end as to whether it belongs to individuals, companies, agencies or a state government.

“We, however, believe they will sort it out and eventually tell Nigerians who owns the money. Nigerians deserve to know. The circus must stop. I believe progress will be made faster if the process is transparent. Those are ways to strengthen institutions. When the process is transparent up to the investigative stage, people will not believe it is because of this person that so, so, person is being prosecuted.

“But clearly, Nigerians must know, to save us this embarrassment. I believe they should come out and tell us who owns the money. I believe an agency like this should monitor and clear this mess.”
Afenifere leader, Chief Ayo Adebanjo, was terrified, saying “Government set up commissions by law to fight corruption and they are fighting each other, is that not corruption? What is happening now shows the rottenness in the government.”

He insisted that government must be transparent as far as the matter was concerned.
Former Ogun State governor, Chief Olusegun Osoba, described, “The whole thing as a total disgrace of the highest order”, adding that “there’s a total display of sordid incompetence.” He, however, maintained that the “EFCC has to go and search itself, clear its name and stop this trial by the media.”

Dr. Eyimofe Atake, a Senior Advocated of Nigeria (SAN), also said, “My view, therefore, is that by now, the EFCC knows who owns the flat or rented it. But it is baffling that they are silent and nothing is being done about it. One thing is also clear: keeping such money in the house also shows that the money is illegal.”

Afenifere’s scribe, Mr. Yinka Odumakin, too described the development as “The greatest embarrassment for the anti-graft war in Nigeria,” saying: “I think the EFCC integrity is seriously being challenged here just like the DSS wrote to the Senate that there is integrity issue in EFCC, so the integrity of EFCC is being challenged over this recovered fund,” he said.

Clearly, they all cannot be wrong and the fact that their viewpoints align greatly with those of a majority of Nigerians, then, the federal government and its agencies must answer all the questions arising from the haul. Buhari’s intervention should not just be a presidential order, the investigation must be thorough, detailed, objective and sincere such that can help the country out of this image crisis.

The probe panel must equally see the many opaque sides to this embarrassing situation through the lenses of the average Nigerian, and must attend to the matter with all the urgency and seriousness it deserves, with a closure that will highlight in positive slant, the integrity of the contending security agencies.

Nigeria has had enough of these demeaning narratives. The Ikoyi discovery is one development too many and therefore, it is for national pride and the collective security of the nation that the matter is resolved conclusively with the mist of uncertainties cleared off with the substance of the investigation. A lot is at stake and the Osinbajo team cannot afford to approach this with levity.