The Senate Committee on Public Accounts has revealed that the sacked Director General of the National Intelligence Agency, Ambassador Ayo Oke, collected $289 million cash from the Central Bank of Nigeria without approval from the former President Goodluck Jonathan.
The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission had in 2017 recovered $43 million from a house in Osborne Street, Ikoyi, Lagos.
The recovered $43 million was the remaining part of $289 million collected by cash from the CBN by the ex-NIA Director General.
During the Committee’s hearing, its Chairman, Senator Matthew Urhoghide, discovered that the $289 million was released by the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation from Niger Delta Security Votes.
Urhoghide queried NNPC for giving order to the CBN on February 24, 2015 to release such amount of money to the NIA without Presidential approval.
But the NNPC, represented by its Financial Director, Godwin Okowonko, in response said the Presidency gave the approval to pay $289 million to the NIA on February 16, 2015.
The Chairman however said that there was no document before the Committee showing Jonathan gave approval for the release of such money to the ex-NIA boss.
Available documents before the Senate Committee on Public Account showed that the NNPC told the CBN to give the money in cash to Oke.
Another document before the Committee also showed it was Oke that requested that the money should be released to him in cash.
Urhoghide said based on the audit query from the Auditor-General for the Federation, the NNPC granted a request from the NIA to pay $289 million in cash to the Director-General of the NIA and that the NNPC complied by directing the CBN to pay the cash.
The Director of Finance in his response said: “Yes, we complied with the request.
“It is not true that we said the money should be paid to the Director-General but to the NIA as an institution.
“I’m not defending NIA for requesting for the money to be paid in cash, but considering the circumstances, which is for security purposes.
“NNPC obliged because we are not in charge of security.
“If they request for payment in cash and they said it is for security, NNPC cannot say no, and that it must be transferred through electronic means to a particular account.
“If anything happens afterwards, NNPC will not be held responsible.
“It is the man who insisted that the money be paid in cash that would answer.”
Urhoghide asked if the NNPC has a mandate from the Presidency directing it to pay money in cash to the NIA.
He wondered why the NIA should insist on cash payment when the procurement of the security equipment would be done outside the country, but Okonkwo said the NNPC was merely carrying out a directive to it to pay.
Urhoghide agreed with the submission of the Auditor-General for the Federation in his audit query that there was no way the President would have directed the NNPC to pay $289 million in cash to the NIA.
He said: “We want you to convince this Committee why you think that the transaction must be done by cash payment.
“Tell us if the President expressly stated that the money should be paid to the NIA in cash.
“There is no way government business involving such huge sums would be transacted in cash.”
The Financial Director of the NNPC however promised to forward the mandate from the President concerning the money to the committee.