CHANGE IS HERE

CHANGE IS HERE

Sunday, May 22, 2011

N20 billion recovered from Tafa Balogun still missing

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Federal lawmakers appear headed for a 

confrontation with the leadership of the 

Economic and Financial Crimes Commission 

(EFCC) over fresh disclosures that about N50 

billion of looted public funds recovered from 

past government officials by the EFCC can 

still not be located, several years after the 

monies were recovered.



A formal investigative report on the missing 

funds was launched by the House of 

Representatives nearly six months ago, and is 

expected to be released this week — just 

before the end of the current legislative session.



Key members of the house ad hoc committee 

on the investigation who spoke to NEXT have 

hinted that there has been no revelation from 

the anti-graft body that is significantly 

different from its past claim that the N20 

billion recovered from the former Inspector 

General of Police (IGP), Tafa Balogun, and 

anotherN30 billion from other officials, could 

not be traced.



“We have sent them a query and they 

responded still denying that the funds are 

with them,” said a member of the committee, 

who refused to be named because the report 

has not yet been submitted.



The newest of the details though, according to 

another member, is that out of the total N20 

billion recovered from the convicted police 

boss, the EFCC has, for the first time, argued 

that the sum was actually N2 billion and not 

N20 billion. The lawmaker said based on the 

information made available to the committee, 

the commission did not refute that N2 billion 

is in its coffers. “I believe the money is with 

them,” the source added.



The admission that the agency is in 

possession of the sum - although it is meagre 

given that N50 billion was the subject of the 

House investigation - appears to be a positive 

step when placed in the context of the many 

years during which the commission has 

summarily denied knowledge of the 

whereabouts of the missing funds.



Even after the latest disclosure last week to 

NEXT, EFCC spokesperson, Femi Babafemi 

insisted that issues of the commission keeping 

records of recovered loots have not arisen at 

all.“The EFCC does not keep recovered 

money,” Mr Babafemi said.



In many ways, the wide ranging controversy - 

denials and counterclaims over the so-called 

missing money which is nearly the size of the 

budget of some states for a full year — 

remains a puzzling episode in the nation’s 

fight against financial crimes. On the one 

hand, the anti-corruption body recoups stolen 

public funds from offenders in a widely 

acclaimed feat, and on the other hand, the 

commission stands accused of not remitting 

the cash to its rightful destination, although it 

publicly claims that it did.




Police denies receiving funds

The former IGP’s case, which has now l

ingered for many years after he was said to 

have paid out N20 billion to the anti-

corruption agency following a plea bargain, 

stands as a reference point.


Mr Balogun and two other unnamed officials 

were convicted in 2004 under the former 

chairman of the EFCC, Nuhu Ribadu. Upon 

conviction, Mr Balogun entered into a well-c

riticised plea- bargain that required that he 

part with N20 billion of the money traced to 

him, for a reduced sentence.

The commission further announced that it 

raised N30 billion from the sale of properties 

belonging to two other corrupt public office 

holders.



Several years after the payment, the 

whereabouts of the money, totalling N50 

billion in all, according to the House 

committee on Police Affairs chairman, Abdul 

Ningi, remains unknown amid several 

allegations and denials.



Despite several correspondence between the 

house police affairs committee, the EFCC and 

the police, the location of the funds remained 

unclear according to the testimony Mr Ningi 

gave when the matter came up in the house 

late last year.




While the commission, now under a new boss, 

Farida Waziri, maintained a sweeping 

innocence on the matter, some of its officials 

at times laid the blame, not surprisingly, at 

Mr Ribadu’s feet.

Mr Ribadu has, in past interviews, denied 

keeping the funds. And so has the police, 

which is now under its third boss after the 

removal of Mr Balogun.



In a reply to the House of Representatives 

inquiry into the missing money, former IGP, 

Mike Okiro, who succeeded Mr Balogun, said 

that only the EFCC was in the best position to 

state the actual amount recovered. He was 

emphatic that the amount was not remitted to the police purse.



On December 8, 2010, in a motion whose 

wordings clearly countered the repeated 

public claims of the anti-graft agency, Mr 

Ningi drew the attention of the house to the 

matter, arguing that the funds should be 

located and be made part of the 2011 

appropriation.



The house said that while the police had 

stated “officially that they had not received the 

N20 billion,” the EFCC on the other hand 

“confirmed that the monies had neither been 

credited to the Nigeria Police nor into the 

federation account”.



In clear terms, the house noted that failure 

was a “violation of the provision of section 162 

of the constitution,” and after six months of 

probing, a six-member panel headed by 

Ehiogie West-Idahosa, is expected to submit a 

report before the lawmakers wrap up their 

session next week.



What is the figure?

Despite the investigation, the EFCC 

spokesperson, Mr Babafemi, insisted on 

Friday that “recovered money is paid into 

designated government accounts”.


Mr Idahosa, a third-term lawmaker from Edo 

State, confirmed to NEXT that the report 

would be submitted this week. “We have just 

had to tidy up the few things,” he said, 

referring to the electioneering, the corruption 

uproar and speakership zoning crisis that the 

house has been dealing with since 

resumption.



“By next week we should have something to 

report back, to the house,” he said.

The unofficial disclosure, which many 

members confirmed, of claims by the EFCC 

that the amount recovered from the former 

IGP, Mr Balogun, was not N20 billion butN2 

billion, now seems set to complicate further 

the already contentious matter.



The house is itself burdened by its own 

winternal corruption charges and might not 

be in a good stead to discuss this major 

national embarassment.


“It was public knowledge that they announced 

N20 billion,” said Halims Agoda, who helped 

push the call for investigation. “Claiming N2 

billion now is something we would like to 

know when we resume next week.”

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