The National Intelligence Agency, NIA, will officially apply to reclaim the money recovered by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, from a building on Osborne Road, Ikoyi, Lagos, according to sources.
The NIA had earlier laid claims to the money, amid counter-claims by Governor Nyesom Wike of Rivers State that the money belonged to his state.
This came on a day Minister of Information & Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, said looters of public funds were now burying money in cemeteries and in deep forests.
Mohammed, who stated this in a statement issued by his spokesman, Segun Adeyemi, yesterday, also said the whistle-blower policy had led to the recovery of looted funds in many currencies that might not have been discovered, describing it as an effective tool for fighting corruption in Nigeria.
The minister’s revelation came as Governor Wike asked Christians in Rivers State to pray aggressively for the state in its efforts to recover the N13 billion discovered in a building at Ikoyi, Lagos, by the EFCC, last Wednesday.
This is even as Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project, SERAP, yesterday asked President Buhari to address the nation on the real ownership of the N13bn.
According to the source, President Muhammadu Buhari was aware that the money was NIA’s and had even inspected some of its covert operations on which part of the money was spent.
NIA boss spoke with Magu
On why the money was kept in a building in a residential area, the source said: “Such monies are kept in safe houses in residential areas so as not to arouse suspicion. It is the practice everywhere in the world.”
The source said NIA operatives avoided a shoot-out with EFCC operatives to avert embarrassing the government.It also confirmed that the Director-General of NIA had a conversation that lasted about one hour with acting EFCC chairman, Ibrahim Magu ,prior to the invasion of the house but was ignored.
Money not Rivers govt’s
The source also dismissed claims by Governor Wike that the money was that of Rivers State government’s money.
On burying of looted funds in cemeteries and deep forest, Mohammed said the whistle-blower policy of the government had also shown the depth of support among Nigerians for the fight against corruption.
He, therefore, thanked Nigerians for the enthusiasm and commitment that they had shown in helping the government tackle the hydra-headed monster of graft through the useful leads they have been providing to appropriate government agencies.
He said: “Since we launched the whistle-blower policy, we have received immeasurable support from Nigerians. Yes, there is monetary reward for any information that leads to recovery of looted funds, but from what we have seen, most Nigerians who have come forward with useful leads were driven by patriotism rather than reward.
“Nigerians, fired by a fervid resolve to help banish corruption from their country, have daily inundated the offices of the appropriate government agencies with valuable information. We have been told how looters have resorted to burying stolen funds in their backyards, in deep forests and even in burial grounds.
“Thanks to whistle-blowers, it is now clear that a rapacious few have pillaged the nation’s wealth through a vicious orgy of corrupt practices.
‘’Thanks to the useful information provided by Nigerians, it is now obvious that more funds are in the possession of looters than are available to government at all levels to meets its obligations, including paying workers’ salaries, providing social amenities, upgrading infrastructure and ensuring the security of lives and property.
“As the looters continue to run helter-skelter, many of them are even abandoning their booty at unusual places, including airports. We want to assure Nigerians that we will not abandon this policy for whatever reason. Instead, we will continue to re-jig it to make it more effective as a tool for fighting corruption.”
Mohammed said the recovered looted funds were safe, adding that as soon as the necessary reconciliation process and litigation in some of the cases were concluded, the government will give a full account of the funds to Nigerians.
Meanwhile, Rivers State governor, Nyesom Wike, who had at the weekend laid claim to ownership of the N13 billion found in a building at Ikoyi by the EFCC, yesterday asked Christians in the state to pray fervently to God to intercede for the state to recover the money.
Wike made the call during Easter Church Service at Saint Peter’s Anglican Church, Rumuepirikom. He said the church has a responsibility to pray that God should touch the Federal Government to return the money to the coffers of Rivers State, since the money was the property of the state government.
He said: “We need the prayers of the Church , because there is nothing that prayers cannot do. Pray that God should touch the government of Nigeria, so that they will return the money to us. What we are interested in is for the money to come back to us.”
Governor Wike stated that contrary to the false propaganda being peddled by the Minister of Transportation, Rotimi Amaechi, he had not declared war on the Federal Government, stressing that Rivers State government was simply requesting the return of funds belonging to the state.
“ I cannot declare war on the Federal Government. Anybody bringing in Buhari’s name should leave Buhari and face his own problems . The issue is who kept the money at the Ikoyi residence. The money was kept there by the Minister of Transportation, Rotimi Amaechi. No amount of blackmail, no amount of distraction will stop us from getting our money. “
He noted that between 70 and 80 per cent of APC campaigns in 2015 were sponsored with funds sourced by Rivers State government under the leadership of Rotimi Amaechi.
He said the selective nature of the war on corruption in the country will not help in efforts to stamp out graft and develop Nigeria, wondering why anti-graft agencies often recoiled in the anti-corruption war when supporters of the government were involved.
Vicar of Saint Peter’s Anglican Church, Rumuepirikom, Venerable Israel Omosioni, prayed God to grant the request of Rivers people for the recovered funds to be returned to Rivers State government.
He said with the execution of projects across the state by Governor Wike, additional funds would assist the governor achieve more for the people.
The church resolved to start the prayers, which would be sustained till the funds were returned.