Lawyers on Friday urged the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) to name the owner of the huge sums of money found in an Ikoyi apartment.Constitutional lawyer and rights activist Chief Mike Ozekhome (SAN) said the claim that the money belongs to the NIA was “facical”.He said there was no way a reasonable person would agree that an intelligence agency would hide money in an apartment.The SAN urged EFCC to name and shame the owners, saying someone must own the apartment.
Ozekhome said: “We seem now fixated to name, shame and humiliate Nigerians with the paint brush of shame, odium, obloquy and denigration.“How can about N15billion be found in highbrow Osborne Road, Ikoyi, by no means a back squalid street? How can the equivalent of CIA, keep such hard currency in cash at an unguarded apartment, tucked away with many other apartments in a block of flats, not in a separate heavily fortified and fiercely guarded stand -alone building that has “keep off” carefully imprinted on it?“What was it meant for and who approved it and in which budget? Who was the whistleblower that could identify that such money was ‘hidden’ in the bedroom in flat 7A, leaving out flat 7B, yet not knowing who kept the money there or its ownership?“Why was EFCC not pictured or recorded on video going into the apartment, before we suddenly saw an arranged ‘counting’ of money? Are there no CCTV in such a highbrow? Can we see the footages, please?
“Only last week, N49m orphaned sum was ‘arrested’ at Kaduna Airport! Then, suddenly another sum of orphaned N448m was ‘discovered’ in an ownerless shop in Victoria Island. Who owned the plaza? Who sold there? Are there no CCTV there? Can we see them, please?“The truth is that all these simulated, ‘arranged’ ‘discoveries’ can only temporarily divert attention from the hunger, squalor, fear, disease, non-performance and cluelessness of this government.“But, unfortunately, even lies have their expiry date. Truth is inexorable, immutable and eternal.The chicken will finally come home to roost,” Ozekhome said.To him, the report that the money belongs to the NIA was “farcical, heretic, total hogwash, bunkum and balderdash”.“Let this government and its minions credit Nigerians with some modicum of sense and capacity to reason, even with their valiant attempts to cow, browbeat and intimidate all opposition elements and critical voices in their so called corruption war.“At least, not even the terror halo cast on our individual and collective psyche has dulled our analytical minds.
“The entire theatricality and Baba Sala’s Alawada Kerikeri buffoonery ought to be reserved for some circus show at the National theatre or Traffagal Square, where comedians and humour merchants entertain. The emergent facts do not show NIA’s ownership of the money, but the grand cover-up of a serving minister’s ownership of the money.“It is so, so sad that all these national diversions are simply geared towards highlighting and emphasising the omnipotence and indispensability of just one man, Ibrahim Magu, as Executive Chairman of the EFCC.“We should build strong institutions, not strong individuals. Before Ibrahim Magu, there was a Nuhu Ribadu; there was a Mrs Waziri, and there was an Ibrahim Lamorde.“After Magu, there would still be another EFCC Executive Chairman. All these so-called humongous recoveries of orphaned monies are simply geared towards showcasing ineffable efficiency, effectiveness and matchless proficiency. It simply doesn’t work that war.“In the USA, wherefrom we borrowed our presidentialism, the equivalent agency works silently behind the scene, only seen, but never heard, except where it becomes absolutely necessary.“But, here in Nigeria, the EFCC engages in grotesque media trial, hifalutin and shocking disclosures of orphaned monies whose destinations after the media hype is never known.“Where are all the alleged recoveries of vast sums, attached properties, etc, made by the EFCC kept, and how much are they? When asked this question by the Senate during screening, Magu told a shocked and bewildered Nation he did not know!”Another SAN, Seyi Sowemimo, said if the money truly belongs to the NIA, the agency should come forward to explain the purpose.“I find it strange that a public agency like the Nigerian Intelligence Agency (NIA) would come forward and admit that it kept the money there. What could be the reason for keeping such money there? Is it in any way tied to its official duties? What was the purpose?“It is only when the NIA discloses this that one can know if it is concerned with its functions and I don’t know if this is something that they should do without disclosing it to maybe an institution like the Central Bank.“The position as I have always understood it is that you cannot keep such monies in a private residence. But I am even going beyond that in order to come to a view of the matter. It isn’t enough for the NIA to say ‘it is our money’.“They need to go beyond that and say whether it is in any way connected with their statutory duties and how they came about the money. Why should a minor institution like that not have the money in a bank? To me, it does not add up.National President, Committee for the Defence of Human Rights (CDHR), Malachy Ugwummadu, said the true owner of the money must be exposed.“It raises questions of the legality of warehousing those kinds of sums. If the NIA claims it owns the money, to what extent has it also explained the need for such humongous sums kept outside the banking system?
“Was it for an operational purpose? What purpose requires those kinds of amounts and needed to be done only by the disbursement of the money in the manner that they were found?“When were they kept there? For how long have they been there? Who authorised them to be kept there? For what purpose? These are questions that must be answered by anyone who shows up claiming to be the owner of that kind of money.“Otherwise, it would raise suspicion that we are looking at a system that encourages even official financial transgressions and that supports the kind of temerity we are seeing,” Ugwummadu said.The Nation