The Rivers State Government has claimed ownership of the money uncovered in at a luxury apartment building in Ikoyi, Lagos, by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC).
Governor Nyesom Wike made the claim Friday night in Port Harcourt, the state capital, bringing a fresh twist to the controversy over the real ownership of the money – $43,449,947, £27,800 and N23, 218,000 – and the apartment where it was recovered by the EFCC on Wednesday.
The governor said the money was part of what was stolen – and warehoused in the Ikoyi house – by his predecessor and current Minister for Transport, Rotimi Amaechi, from proceeds of sale of the state’s gas turbines to Sahara Energy.
PREMIUM TIMES had earlier on Friday reported the National Intelligence Agency to have claimed ownership of the money which amounted to over N13 billion using the current CBN’s exchange rate.
According to security and presidency sources who spoke to this newspaper, former President Goodluck Jonathan approved the fund for the NIA after its immediate past Director General, Olaniyi Oladeji, alerted him to the need for some “crucial and covert security projects” scattered across the country, with the major one said to be in Lagos.
The NIA, according to the National Security Agencies Act, is charged with gathering external intelligence and ensuring Nigeria’s security from outside.
Why it is engaged in an internal security activity, getting cash for ‘projects scattered across the country’ remains unexplained.
Mr. Wike has now challenged the agency’s claim of ownership. He also demanded that the money should be returned to his state.
He gave the federal government seven-day ultimatum to return the money said to have now been deposited in the Lagos vault of the CBN or risk legal action.
“We have facts to prove that the said money belongs to the Rivers State Government,” Mr. Wike said. “The Federal Government must return our money.”
“We are giving them seven days to return our money. Otherwise, we would take legal action to recover our money. $43million will help us complete several projects. We need that money for projects.”
The demand from Rivers State came after the Federal High Court in Lagos, Thursday, ordered a temporary forfeiture of the money to the federal government.
But the court also said that anybody who may want to show cause why the money should not be permanently forfeited to the government should appear before it on May 5.
Mr. Wike said the NIA’s claim was false and suggested that it was employed by the All Progressives Congress-controlled federal government as a cover-up or face-saving mechanism.
“If you recollect in 2015, we said that gas turbines built by Former Governor Peter Odili were sold to Sahara Energy, business partners of Chibuike Rotimi Amaechi at $319 million.
“That money was used to sponsor the All Progressives Congress for the 2015 general elections. From the date of sale of the gas turbines to May 29, 2015, the money depleted from $319million to $204,000. What was stashed at the Ikoyi residence was part of that fund.
“As I speak to you, the Federal Government is so embarrassed that this has happened. All the stories that the money belongs to the NIA are fake,” the governor said.
He also challenged the federal government to constitute a panel of inquiry, which should sit publicly to investigate the money, if it doubted his claim.
However, Mr. Amaechi, through his media aide, David Iyofor, denied ownership of the controversial money and any apartment in Lagos, after he was first linked with the cash on Thursday.
Also, Adamu Mu’azu, a former chairman of Mr. Wike’s Peoples Democratic Party also denied link with the money but admitted he built and once owned the building which has several apartments.
He said he has since sold the apartments to different occupants.