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How $44m vanished from NIA vaults

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·         Any answer for the emptying coffers at Nigeria’s Intelligence Agency?

Nigerians received another big shock last week when another $44million was reported to have vanished from the vaults of the National Intelligence Agency (NIA). Daily Trust on Sunday reported, quoting top security sources, that $44million in cash kept in NIA’s vaults in Abuja was removed to an unknown destination two days after Ahmed Rufa’i Abubakar was appointed as its new Director General.

According to the story, the Jonathan administration released $260million to NIA as General Intervention Fund. At the time the Federal Government launched an investigation into the funds last year, only the cash discovered in Lagos and the $44million lying in the Abuja vault remained to be expended out of the original $260million. It said certain powerful forces mounted pressure on NIA’s acting DG, Ambassador Mohammed Dauda to use the money since it is the property of the NIA but he refused. Two days after President Buhari replaced Dauda with a substantive NIA DG; a black bullion van arrived at NIA’s premises at around 6am on Friday and removed the money to an unknown destination

The recent removal of money was greeted with outrage from Nigerians because it came at a time citizens were yet to recover from the shock of an earlier recovery of $43.4 million at an apartment in Ikoyi by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC. NIA said the money belonged to it and that it was meant for undercover operations.

The matter was investigated by a three-member presidential panel headed by Vice President Yemi Osinbajo and in October last year, Ayo Oke was fired from his job as Director General, six months after he was handed an indefinite suspension. Shortly after the recent story broke, senior government officials issued a response which failed to justify the movement of the money from the NIA vault. Based on the inability of the agency to issue a denial or a viable explanation for the action, the House of Representatives resolved following a motion sponsored by Diri Duoye to investigate the issue. The House resolution said the issue “paints a poor picture of our national security and diminishes the reputation of the agency in the eyes of the general public and the international community.”

We commend the lawmakers for the decision and urge that they investigate the matter thoroughly and ensure that anyone found to have violated the law is dealt with to serve as a deterrent to others. The findings of the committee saddled with the job should also be made public. Already, there are reports that EFCC has started grilling some officials in connection with the money. All efforts should be made to get to the root of the matter. NIA is a highly respected organisation but recent reports emanating from that agency are anything but respectable. In fact, they are very embarrassing and do not speak well of a security agency, especially one so highly placed.

We are aware of the fact that NIA is usually involved in covert operations and that most of its activities are not publicised due to their sensitive nature. However, there is a law setting up the agency and it is imperative for that law to be obeyed at all times and in all its operations. Negative reports like the ones that have been associated with the agency in the past months are making Nigerians to lose confidence in it. Government officials should not treat NIA as a cash cow as any money that is given to the agency is for a specific purpose and it should be used for that purpose.

This terrible attitude of diversion of funds that characterises other government agencies cannot be extended to such a sensitive agency. NIA cannot afford to be associated with stories that will impugn on its integrity. It is a security agency and as such should be exemplary in its actions. We, therefore, urge the operatives to retrace their steps and ensure that things are done in tandem with the law.

Credits: Daily Trust

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