Ikoyi Dollars Stash: A National Security Issue by JJ Omojuwa

The Ikoyi dollars (including naira and pound sterling) stash started as a subject about corruption, but it has now become a national security issue, thanks to the Director-General of the Nigerian Intelligence Agency, Ambassador Ayodele Oke.


In a world where media platforms can issue three ‘exclusive’ stories on the same day with all three contradicting one another, one cannot make categorical statements on this issue. But, we can ask very valid questions. The reader can then use the questions, mostly rhetorical, to identify specific targets. That way, we focus the issue into something that is clearer than all the attempts by different parties to muddle things up.


An obviously idle aide of one of the South-West governors, where sharing ponmo and arresting cows are the zenith of ‘open governance,’ even tried to create a Nollywood-esque story involving a media mogul and a current minister. That attempt immediately let itself out as intentionally cooked when a governor immediately claimed that the money belonged to his state. Governance in Nigeria is often a joke but this was the joke taken well beyond the realms of comedy and rationality.


Before addressing the national security issue, which borders on treasonable felony, it is important to address something that has now become the norm in national conversations. The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission discovered cash in a locked apartment in Ikoyi, Lagos and immediately, names started flying around. There were immediate attempts to politicise issues. Obviously, guided hands immediately went on social media to muddle up the issue.


The intention was pretty simple: muddle up the conversation to the point where the masses are confused about who did what. So people who had nothing to do with the cash whatsoever had to go out of their way to issue statements denying the money. Anything to scatter the entire conversation. But we would be fools to let this happen. We need to focus on the main issues and we need to triangulate this matter, throw away the triangles that don’t matter and then deal with the one(s) that do to the point where we can begin to identify the real suspects.


Unlike many Nigerians, I am not as interested in recovering the cash as I am interested in discovering those behind it. The DG of the National Intelligence Agency has helped the government a great deal by immediately claiming the cash on behalf of the organisation he has been leading since November 2013 when he was appointed by the immediate past President.


President Muhammadu Buhari missed an opportunity to arrest a top government functionary by himself when the DG reportedly went to him to claim that the discovered Ikoyi money belonged to his organisation, meant for ‘covert operations’ approved by the last administration. If Oke really made that statement to the President, as widely reported, he should have been arrested on the spot! At that point, he was immediately liable for treason. By that, he admitted to carrying out ‘covert operations’ on behalf of Nigeria without the knowledge of the President of Nigeria and Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces. If there was a covert operation that was carried over from the last administration by the NIA and the new President wasn’t briefed, it is treasonable! If it is treasonable, it means that the admission by the DG of the NIA should have immediately earned him an arrest before further questions are asked about the money and its essence.


At some point, Nigeria has to start being a serious country where the leaders do the right thing most of the time – if not at all times – and where the governed ask the right questions. Ambassador Oke has got some questions to answer. Does he have any special interest in the building? If that is true, does that explain why the money meant for this covert operation was kept in a private apartment instead of a fortified public apartment managed by the NIA? Was it impossible to house the cash in a government building without losing the ‘covert’ essence of the claimed operations? Is there a chance that this money was originally released for national security projects but it got diverted for private purposes? This is not me saying this was probably set aside for the 2015 elections or that like many who accessed such funding, they chose to play smart against the run of play of their Oga’s ambition. But I can ask why some campaign paraphernalia were found alongside the cash. In the quest to normalise corruption in Nigeria by throwing all sorts of names where issues like this come up, we certainly cannot normalise acts of treason. This is why Oke must answer these questions.

Most Nigerians expect that, as with many issues Nigerian, this will be swept under the carpet. President Buhari and his team can decide to do the same. The National Security Adviser, Babagana Monguno, can for reasons known to him let the parties found complicit in this matter off the hook. We can play the usual elite card and cover this up. In the end, those who played the same power games under the last administration have not been convicted, but they are at least like the hen on a horizontally tied rope. The rope is restless, the hen is restless. As the Yoruba would say, Adiye b’ale okun, ara o r’okun, ara o ro adiye. They are either running helter-skelter, looking to escape jail terms or dying of real or feigned diseases. Better this government and the parties responsible do the right thing because a day will come, when such people will answer for these crimes and the crimes of covering them up.


Oke claims that the money discovered by the EFCC belongs to his organisation and was meant for ‘covert’ security operations approved by the immediate past President. We also know that the current President was not aware of this so-called covert operation. What we can reasonably deduce here is that an arm of the government was carrying out ‘covert’ operations on behalf of the government without the approval of the President and Commander-in-Chief. If this is true, it is treasonable. If it turns out there was no ‘covert’ operation or the socalled operation had since ended under the previous administration, then the money for such operation was indeed diverted for private use. If indeed that is the case, an act of corruption has been committed.


What we now know for sure is that Oke has big questions to answer. If added together, $43.4m, £27,800 and N23.2m would translate into a lot of money any day. But the size of the money is nothing compared to the reality that we would certainly unearth once we focus on what really matters: the people behind it and reason for stashing away the money. Who are the people behind the money? We know one person for sure, the DG of the NIA, Ayodele Oke. Who are the other people? Mr. DG can lead us to them. What is the reason behind the money? This DG should not be answering this and many more questions as the DG of the NIA. But will President Buhari act fast on this one?


This piece was originally published in Punch newspaper of 17/04/2017.