Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) has asked former Minister of Finance, Ngozi Okonjo Iweala, to “apologise to Nigerians for claiming recently that recovered Abacha loot was transparently spent while she knew that $322m (about N63billion) recovered Abacha funds were inappropriately released to finance the fight against Boko Haram.”
SERAP’s statement today followed Mrs. Okonjo-Iweala’s confession that she released about $322m to the former National Security Adviser, Sambo Dasuki for military operations.
In a statement by SERAP executive director, Adetokunbo Mumuni, the organisation said that, “The truth about the spending of Abacha loot is now coming out, and it is clear that Mrs. Okonjo-Iweala was wrong to accuse SERAP of bias while she knew that we are simply seeking truth, justice and accountability on the spending of recovered Abacha loot.
“Mrs. Okonjo-Iweala’s approach of ‘no answers, no apology’ on how Abacha loot was spent is doing her reputation more harm than good. We hope that she will take a cue from the World Bank (her former employer) when it defined ‘accountability and probity’ as knowing what task has been set, accepting to do it, and going about it with a sense of probity. Probity implying the willingness to self-disclose such information to which a specific stakeholder group has a right as well as tolerance of the scrutiny of such a stakeholder group on information to which they have a right,” the organisation said.
“We therefore urge her to now come out for the sake of millions of Nigerians living in extreme poverty, but also of generations as yet unborn and tell Nigerians the whole story about what exactly happened to recovered Abacha loot, as well as publicly apologise for claiming that Abacha loot was transparently spent. She should be willing to be held to account,” the organisation added.
The letter, dated January 20, 2015, which was addressed to former President Goodluck Jonathan, revealed that $322m of Abacha loot was transferred following a January 12, 2015 request by the office of the former National Security Adviser, Sambo Dasuki, for funds for the procurement of arms and ammunition as well as intelligence equipment. The letter reads: “Please find a request by the National Security Adviser (NSA) for the transfer of $300 million and £5.5 million of the recovered Abacha funds to an ONSA [Office of the National Security Adviser] operations account. The NSA has explained that this is to enable the purchase of ammunition, security, and other intelligence equipment for the security agencies in order to enable them fully confront the ongoing Boko Haram threat. His request is sequel to the meeting you chaired with the committee on the use of recovered funds where the decision was made that recovered Abacha funds would be split 50-50 between urgent security needs to confront Boko Haram and development need (including a portion for the Future Generations window of the Sovereign Wealth Fund)”.
It would be recalled that SERAP had raised some questions for Mrs. Okonjo-Iweala to answer regarding how Abacha loot was spent.
The questions read in part: “First, the World Bank confirmed that of the 51 projects reviewed, 23 were described as “completed”, 26 were at various stages of completion, and 2 were described as “abandoned”. Nigerians would like Mrs. Okonjo-Iweala to show us evidence of the 23 projects allegedly completed, and whether the 26 projects were actually completed; and what became of the 2 abandoned projects.
“Second, the World Bank confirmed that 6 out of 8 health centers reviewed pertained to physical infrastructure, but were not completed. Nigerians would like Mrs. Okonjo-Iweala to explain why these projects were not completed on time, and whether in fact they were completed at all; as well as location of completed projects.
“Nigerians would also like Mrs Okonjo-Iweala to explain the letter she wrote to the Ambassador of Switzerland to Nigeria January 9, 2005 that of the 174 health centers built with Abacha funds, 138 were fully functional and that remaining 36 were expected to be commissioned in January 2005. Nigerians would appreciate it if Mrs. Okonjo-Iweala could identify and name all the health centers mentioned her letter.
“Third, as regards power projects, the World Bank confirmed that payments by government to contractors could not be verified “because in most cases contact information for contractors was not available,” and that 10 of the 18 power projects pertained to physical electrical installations. Nigerians would like Mrs. Okonjo-Iweala to identify and name the 10 installations, and to provide contact details of the contractors that executed the projects.
“Fourth, the World Bank confirmed that most of the recovered funds were used to repay domestic borrowing. Nigerians would like Mrs. Okonjo-Iweala to explain how much exactly was involved as a part of 2004 annual budget execution in anticipation of the repatriation of the looted funds in 2004, as well as repayment terms of the funds and from which banks.
“Fifth, the World Bank confirmed that the government opened a special US dollar account for recovered funds with the Bank for International Settlements in Basel, to which various transfers of Abacha loot were made. The World Bank also confirmed that some $50 mn was received before 2005 which was kept in the special account. Nigerians would like Mrs. Okonjo-Iweala to explain how much was left in the account by the time she left office in May.
“Sixth, the World Bank confirmed that the data on inflows of recovered funds are broadly identical, but that there was one material discrepancy, which was unexplained. The Bank also said the information it received from the government ‘does not contain a reference to the transfer of $5.2 mn in August of 2006.’ Nigerians would like Mrs. Okonjo-Iweala to explain the material discrepancy, and why the transfer of $5.2 mn was not disclosed to the Bank.
“Seventh, the World Bank confirmed that Abacha returned loot was used as source of 2005 budget deficit financing, and that the funds were directed to co-financing of capital expenditure and balancing the 2005 budget. Nigerians would like Mrs. Okonjo-Iweala to explain exactly the capital expenditure involved.
“Eighth, the World Bank confirmed that the Abacha funds were used to provide additional financing for the Universal Basic Education (UBE) program in the amount of NGN24.25 bn to support basic education throughout the country. This amount was fully disbursed and fully utilized. Nigerians would like Mrs. Okonjo-Iweala to identify the number and location of schools which benefited from these funds at the time.
“Ninth, the World Bank confirmed that there were problems with collecting project-related information because of under-developed reporting and accounting standards, and absence of properly set-up databases for sectoral project portfolios; and weak administrative capacity in the Ministry of Finance. Nigerians would like Mrs. Okonjo-Iweala to explain why this was the case under her watch.
“Tenth, the World Bank confirmed that 13 road projects were completed including 3 of the largest road and bridge projects in each geo-political zone. Also, the Bank regretted that it was not possible to interview many contractors in order to obtain independent confirmation of amounts spent on individual projects, and record their comments on project status. Nigerians would like Mrs. Okonjo-Iweala to explain what exactly happened, and to identify unconfirmed individual projects, including the largest roads and bridges completed.
“Eleventh, the World Bank confirmed that no special arrangements were made for project selection and monitoring. According to the Bank, ‘Given the weakness of general budget reporting systems at the moment, this decision greatly undermined the opportunity for tracking the returned Abacha funds and analysis of their utilization.’ Nigerians would like Mrs. Okonjo-Iweala to explain why this was the case under her watch.”