By Our Reporter
NationalTrail can authoritatively report that the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC has invited some officials of the National Intelligence Agency for questioning over the alleged involvement of their embattled director general in the controversy surrounding the cash found in an apartment in Lagos.
Our correspondent reports that, those invited include a director (name withheld) as well as two accountants, through whose hands money belonging to the NIA passes. There has been no official statement on this latest development, but it is believed their interrogation may not be unconnected with the ongoing probe into the Ikoyi billions.
It will be recalled that the EFCC uncovered $43m cash as well as money in other currencies at Osborne Towers, Ikoyi recently. The Director General of NIA, Ayo Oke said the money belongs to his agency.
The DG was subsequently suspended along with the Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Babachir Lawal, who was alleged to have wrongfully awarded contracts under the Presidential Initiative on the North East.
Consequently, a three-man probe panel led by Vice President Yemi Osinbajo was set up and has concluded its work last week, but the report which was supposed to have been submitted to the President this week may have to wait until President Muhammadu Buhari’s return from yet another medical vacation to London.
It was not immediately clear how President Muhammadu Buhari’s trip will affect the submission of Osinbajo’s report, but if the remarks credited to Buhari’s media aide is anything to go by, Osinbajo will continue to run affairs in the president’s absence, and may not submit the report to himself as acting President..
National Trail learnt on Monday when the report was supposed to have been submitted that even as the panel was working on its mandate, EFCC continued with its probe into the cash haul by inviting the NIA officials for questioning especially about the agency’s finances.
Findings at the EFCC could not confirm if the NIA officials were detained, contrary to claims by our sources earlier, which confirmed that the officials were invited but they were in fact released early last week. The source said: “Early last week, a director and two accountants were invited by the EFCC but released unconditionally.”
When contacted for clarification, an official of the EFCC denied knowledge, saying, he was “not aware of any NIA officials” being quizzed.
Experts have continued to debate over the propriety or inappropriateness of the disclosures of NIA funds. Those kicking against full disclosure are being accused of trying to “deodorize the scam.” A source insisting on full disclosures argued for instance that “The most decorated and celebrated General in recent US history General David Petreaus as CIA Chief was disgraced from office. General Flynn is even a recent example. Investigation has opened on his relationship with the Russians because he refused to make full disclosure.”
Other officials at NIA argued that it was inappropriate to treat funds allocated for intelligence the same manner as you handle normal programmes as there are always cover stories for security projects. But the most profound argument for caution on revelations on NIA expenditure was made by Professor Bolaji Akinyemi, a former Minister of External Affairs.
According Akinyemi, “External Intelligence operations do not belong into the same security genre as domestic security forces such as the SSS, EFCC and the Police.”
“External Intelligence officers, otherwise called spies, do not operate under the same operational penalties as domestic intelligence officers.
“The ultimate penalty for a foreign spy in most countries is death. Countries go to incredible lengths to hide the identities of their agents both domestic and foreign and their operations. No receipts get issued. Budgets are called black budgets because they are never publicly acknowledged”, he said.
How much of Akinyemi’s advice mthe federal government will take remains to be seen as the EFCC has dragged the cash haul to court seeking total forfeiture of the money uncovered.