The immediate past minister of Finance, Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, has confirmed PREMIUM TIMES story on how she disbursed N61.4 billion Abacha loot based on the directive of former President Goodluck Jonathan.
The moneywas disbursed on the request of former National Security Adviser, NSA, Sambo Dasuki, for arms procurement without the statutory approval of the National Assembly.
On Wednesday, this newspaper revealed in an exclusive report how Ms. Okonjo-Iweala in a memo to Mr. Jonathan, approved the transfer of $300 million and £5.5 million (N61.4 million) to the Office of the NSA, shoving off accountability of the usage of the funds.
In a statement Wednesday by the media aide of the former minister, Paul Nwabuikwu, the minister confirmed that the money was part of $322 million recovered Abacha loot, and that a committee set up by the Mr. Jonathan had decided that the money be disbursed for urgent security issues and developmental programmes.
She was however silent on why she agreed to disburse the funds without the approval of the National Assembly, in clear violation of the provision of the constitution.
She said just before the money was disbursed, the military hierarchy had accused her of not disbursing enough money for the prosecution of the war.
“The central responsibility of the minister of Finance is to find sources of funding for the financing of approved national priorities such as security, job creation and infrastructure.
“It will be recalled that throughout 2014, there were public complaints by the military hierarchy to President Goodluck Jonathan about the inadequacy of funds to fight the anti-terror war in the North East, resulting in Boko Haram making gains and even taking territories.
“A lot of the criticism was directed at the Federal Ministry of Finance under Dr Okonjo-Iweala which was accused of not doing enough to find funds for the operations.
“In fact, the ministry, on several occasions, had to call press conferences to provide details of budgetary spending on the military, to show, against the background of limited resources and other urgent national priorities, that it was doing its best on funding security.
“It was about this time that some new Abacha funds of about $322m were returned with another $700m still expected to be returned.
“Former President Jonathan set up a committee, comprising the former minister of Justice, former NSA and the former minister of Finance to determine how best to use both the returned and expected funds for development,” the statement stated.
However, she failed to explain if her role as minister of finance gave her the power to lend money to another agency of government.
She also did not reveal the conditions under which the said loan was granted to the office of the NSA.
On why she abdicated the responsibility of ensuring the money was properly accounted for to the former president, Ms. Okonjo-Iweala curiously said the ministry of finance was not part of the security architecture.
“But, as captured in the memo, she insisted on three conditions: (a) only a part, not the entire Abacha funds would be spent on the arms; the rest would be invested in developmental projects as originally conceived. (b) the money was to be treated as borrowed funds which would be paid back as soon as possible. (c) the NSA’s office was to account for the spending to the president who was the Commander-in-Chief, given the fact that the minister of Finance is not part of the security architecture and does not participate in the Security Council,” she explained.
Despite agreeing with PREMIUM TIMES story, she however described it as “baseless” and part of a campaign of falsehood orchestrated by the “Edo State governor, Adams Oshiomhole, and other powerful and corrupt interests” to tarnish her name.