Police authorities and the police affairs ministry surprised lawmakers investigating disbursement of government funds Tuesday, denying the receipt of N19.7 billion from the Central Bank of Nigeria which the bank’s suspended governor, Lamido Sanusi, said was paid at President Goodluck Jonathan’s instruction for purchase of security helicopters and equipment.
The Inspector General of Police, Mohammed Abubakar, told the House of Representatives public accounts committee that police knew nothing about the money, and would not answer questions about its disbursement.
A representative of the police chief, Ilesanmi Aguda, an assistant inspector general, said the ministry of police affairs which oversees police administration would be better placed to respond to queries on the matter.
But the chairman of the committee, Solomon Olamilekan, said he had been informed “formally” by the permanent secretary of the ministry that the ministry too knew nothing about the money.
The claims, Tuesday, adds a fresh twist to the controversy over the suspension of Mr. Sanusi, accused by President Jonathan of wasting public funds.
Mr. Jonathan said he sanctioned Mr. Sanusi to allow investigations into allegation by the Financial Reporting Council of Nigeria of extensive misuse of funds by the CBN governor.
Many Nigerians believe the outspoken CBN governor was punished instead for revealing how state oil firm, the Nigeria National Petroleum Corporation, NNPC, failed to pay $20 billion into government coffers.
Mr. Sanusi has denied violating any financial rules, or misspending as the government claims.
In a lengthy statement March 16, the CBN governor detailed, with relevant documents, how some of the spendings for which he is being disparaged by the president and his aides, were authorised by Mr. Jonathan himself.
The police security equipment purchase was one of such.
Mr. Sanusi said the project, which involved buying helicopters and other security tools, totalled N19.7 billion, and was carried out “upon the instruction” of President Jonathan.
The president, he said, also requested that the CBN pay N3.2 billion for the construction of a new counter terrorism centre for the office of the National Security Adviser, alongside other projects.
“Consistent with our policy of development, upon the instruction of His Excellency, the President, the CBN intervened by paying N19.7 Billion to the Ministry of Police Affairs for the purchase of armoured helicopters and other security equipment,” he said.
“Also, upon the application of the Secretary to the Government of the Federation, the CBN paid N2.1 Billion for the automation and renovation of the Federal Executive Council Chamber.”
Such projects should be covered by the government budget, and it is not clear how these spending were categorized by the president.
But at a dramatic sitting of the House public account committee Tuesday, AIG Aguda, said the police could not give details of the funds as “at no point was such funds released to the police.”
“It is the ministry of police affairs that can answer the questions,” Mr. Aguda, who is AIG in charge of police air wing, said.
As he spoke, the chairman of the committee, Mr. Olamilekan, interjected and explained how he had been “formally” briefed by the permanent secretary of the ministry, who exonerated the ministry of any role in the disbursement of the funds.
“The perm sec approached me formally and told me that they don’t know anything about the money,” the chairman said.
The committee said it would insist on receiving the explanations directly from the police IG, Mr. Abubakar, next Tuesday. The ministry of police affairs and the CBN have also been invited to attend the meeting.
The ministry of police affairs is known to be in charge of police administration in Nigeria, and the bulk of spending by the police is often undertaken by the ministry.
But the denials about the CBN funds appears more conflicting as the police in 2013 commissioned new helicopters, believed to have been part of the CBN funds.