Former Minister of Finance, Dr Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala says she cannot be held accountable for the misappropriation of the funds released for the procurement of arms for the nation’s armed forces.
Former National Security Adviser, Sambo Dasuki is at the center of an investigation into the diversion of about $2billion meant for the purchase of arms during the last administration.
A few public figures including Edo state governor, Adams Oshiomhole had questioned her involvement in the arms scandal, owing to the fact that she was the Finance Minister.
Okonjo-Iweala, however, maintains that her only involvement in the arms deal was to send a memo to former President Goodluck Jonathan, requesting that he approves $322m requested by the former NSA for military operations.
In the memo dated January 20, 2015, Okonjo-Iweala said she ‘responded to a request by the former National Security Adviser, Col Ibrahim Dasuki (retired) for funds to prosecute the terror war against Boko Haram.’
“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. (This is not to be confused with the Abacha funds returned in 2005-2006 under the Obasanjo government whose use for developmental purposes was monitored by the World Bank as earlier explained by Dr Okonjo-Iweala).”
“Former President Jonathan set up a Committee comprising of 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.
In the statement released on Wednesday by Paul Nwabuikwu, her Media Adviser, the former Minister further said she gave 3 conditions that must be met by the office of the NSA before the funds could be utilised.
“The NSA made a case for using the returned funds for urgent security operations since, he noted, there cannot be any development without peace and security. Based on this, a decision was taken to deploy about $322m for the military operations, while the expected $700m would be applied for development programmes as originally conceived.”
“Following the discussions and based on the urgency of the NSA’s memo, Dr Okonjo-Iweala requested the President to approve the transfer of the requested amount to the NSA’s Office for the specified purposes.
“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.”
The attempt to link the former Minister’s name to any misuse of these funds for any purpose other than security as far as she understood it is totally false and cannot stand.”