Dasukigate: Vindication of Okonjo-Iweala



A FRENCH proverb – wise as all proverbs are – says, “For desperate ills desperate remedies.” Those who have found fault with Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala “for the transfer of US$300 million and British Pounds £5.5 million of the recovered Abacha funds to an ONSA operation account” (in what amounts to a move in support of the war against the Boko Haram terrorist group) may not be familiar with this proverb and its implication that there are certain problems that arise in the affairs of humans and nations which reasonable people unanimously agree on the rightness of ignoring convention in solving them.

Take, for instance, the tactics adopted by the United States in fighting terror post 9/11. It involved the torture of suspects at the facility in Guantanamo Bay by the procedure known as waterboarding, etc., but ultimately yielded information leading to the discovery of Osama bin Laden in his secret hideout in Pakistan.

We know that torture breaches the convention of respect for the dignity of suspects. We know what happened to Osama bin Laden in his encounter with the US Navy Seals, though the convention is not to punish – let alone liquidate – an accused person without trial. We also know that that final encounter with bin Laden involved an “unconventional” violation of the territorial integrity and airspace of his host nation. But more importantly, there was a general consensus that America faced such a desperate threat from terror that it was understandable that it took such desperate measures in dealing with it, hence such breaches of convention were generally regarded as insignificant – and justified – in light of the overriding need to find a remedy for the desperate ill of a terrorist threat which compares to Boko Haram in today’s Nigeria.

And the grouse of the critics of Okonjo-Iweala, for which they have asked President Buhari to order her arrest and prosecution, is that she – they allege – disbursed the said funds in a manner that violated convention, given that the funds should have been appropriated through Senate approval before their disbursement.

However, they seem to forget that it was the same Senate some of whose members were said to be sympathetic with Boko Haram and so might have been inclined to frustrate Senate approval of such funds to fight the insurgent group. They also seem not to realise that debating the appropriation of such funds for fighting the insurgents on the floor of the Senate would have been strategically wrong, as it would amount to alerting them to device a means of thwarting or countering the planned offensive.

I have drawn the above quote – in which the transferred amounts are mentioned – from a letter recently put in the public domain by which Okonjo-Iweala, then Minister of Finance and Coordinating Minister of the Economy under former President Goodluck Jonathan, sought and received the approval of her boss to make the transfer.

The letter also clarifies that “the NSA … explained” that the funds were “to enable purchase of ammunitions, security and other intelligence equipment for the security agencies in order to enable them fully confront the ongoing Boko Haram threat.”

And Okonjo-Iweala did not think making the disbursement was enough. Rather, addressing her said boss, she also emphasised the need for accountability in the letter, thus: “In light of this and given the peculiar nature of security and intelligence transactions, we would expect the NSA to account to Your Excellency for the utilisation of the funds.”

Furthermore, the letter reveals that Okonjo-Iweala did not make a unilateral, secret or underhand decision in making the transfer, but that her decision – following the request by the NSA – was “sequel to the meeting” the former President “chaired with the committee on 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 needs…”

Incidentally, this letter has been linked with a scandal dubbed “Dasukigate”, apparently coined from the surname of Sambo Dasuki, the (now former) National Security Adviser (NSA) mentioned in it.

Indeed, the content of the letter, which clearly reveals the compelling circumstances for the disbursement of the said funds, vindicates Okonjo-Iweala and portrays her as a selfless and conscientious manager of resources who deploys them without personal benefit and insists on their being accounted for. Needless to say that this is exemplary compared to what generally obtains among our public servants. I am not unimpressed by the effort of those arguing the case against her to anchor their claims on the law, like one Ilesanmi Omabomi in “Why Buhari Must Order The Immediate Arrest Of Okonjo-Iweala And CBN Governor, Godwin Emefiele”, who cites the “Constitution of Nigeria 1999 as amended, subsection 80(2)” to support his case. But since every legal contest ends in victory for only one of the parties and its lawyer(s), it means the parties and their lawyers are wrong half of the time. And so his case against Okonjo-Iweala has a high 50 per cent chance of failure if subjected to legal contestation.

On a different note, I suspect that the call for the arrest and prosecution of Okonjo-Iweala, like the recent absolutely condemnable massacre of Shiite Muslims in Zaria by the Nigerian Army, is part of the incipient politics of making President Buhari and his administration unpopular, with the instigation of his frenemies who would rather be ruling in his place. I believe the stratagem of this insidious politics and its sponsors is to continuously nudge the President and his administration into taking unpopular or even atrocious decisions that would erode his popularity with the Nigerian people and enable the sponsors profit politically – need I say when and how? – from his resultant notoriety.

And shouldn’t President Buhari be wary of such people?

Oke, a public affairs commentator, wrote from Abuja.

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  • Okwy

    Well written. Thank you.

  • Okonjo Iweala has a case to answer. She has a lot of explanation to make to Nigerian people. Since investigations are still ongoing it is premature at this time to say whether she should be arrested or not. But it might indeed get to that stage. The author hasn’t said anything just trying to defend Iweala or probably do a hatchet job for her.
    Remember that Iweala never disclosed to us that $322m was among the returned Abacha loot. All enquiries by NGO/CSO were usually rebuffed by her in her usual arrogance and contempt. What happened to the returned loot? She said they were used on some rural electrification projects. Where were the projects sited for individual verification? Who authorized the disbursement? These were questions asked her which she refused to answer. She never mentioned that another tranche of the money had arrived and disbursed for weapons. She never did. But for the investigation and the confession of Dasuki we would never have known.
    How about our Excess Crude Account? How could it have been depleted by about $2b and why would a Finance Minister release such amount on the directive of the president before an election in which he was a candidate and not based on the
    directive of NEC as provided by law? This is being investigated by NEC because i found Iweala’s defence even laughable.
    I don’t see how Iweala can go scot free or be innocent from all the financial atrocities committed under Jonathan- diversion or misappropriation of Abacha loot, mismanagement of Excess Crude Account, lack of transparency and corruption in budget administration and implementation, incurring frivolous debts in a time when a barrel of crude oil was selling for about $100 per barrel etc.
    As investigations continue we can only watch and wait to see but i don’t see how Iweala will not one day keep her appointment in court. I don’t see it. All the excuses that are being made for her by her kinsmen will not stop the wheel of justice because a presidential directive to a minister or civil servant cannot override the Constitution. Did Jonathan request for the money in writing? It is not her place to use her discretion to disburse money or fritter away our commonwealth because there is a battle being waged against terrorism. She should have known that $1b had been given as loan for the same military equipment and there was also the budgetary provision for defence in the year in question. Thus it was beyond her power to spend or disburse the returned loot without the consent of Nigerian people as provided by their law which is that all money must be paid into the Federation Account.
    The arrest of Iweala will not make Buhari unpopular, except probably among the Ibos. But the issue before us now is more than popularity. We want to know how billions of dollars of our money disappeared, misappropriated, out rightly embezzled under the watch of a vaunting expert- a supposed development economist- and how our economy was so criminally mismanaged that even few months to inauguration several states could not pay salaries of workers and even the Federal Government was borrowing to pay salaries. Was this woman really a public servant or an economic hitman of global corporatocracy and imperialism? The investigations will answer these questions.

    • remm ieet

      Who cares about terminology in management? Both the receiver and the sender are on the same page. They both belong to a devouring clique that cares less about Nigeria. She would not have been mired in the scandal had she sufficient integrity to go with her job. Stop supporting criminality with technical language. It is only in Nigeria where a prima facie case of corruption will be established and people will be defending the indefensible.

    • olabisisho

      Should the movement from one vote to another be whimsical and without the approval of NEC? I doubt it.

    • MOG

      The writer of the article concerned himself with the transfer into the account of former NSA and not the other issues of excess crude you cited. If you think the writer was not objective enough or you think Okonjo transferred the money into her personal account or without the approval of the president or the committee that took decision on what to do with the recovered fund, you should state it rather than sound otherwise. There is no how anyone can convict Okonjo on this very issue except there is any other thing than this we know of today. Anyone who understands the workings of the office of even an MD talk less of a President will know Okonjo acted within the confines of her duties with letters , references and approvals to support her action. What else Nigerians?

  • Tayo Akin

    Oke is a master when it comes to justification of all that is wrong and arbitrariness, even Okonjo never canvassed the kind of argument Oke has put forward here, what is wrong is wrong, period. Boko haram was already a bad bad situation, so nothing stops Okonjo and Jonathan’s government from seeking appropriation from the parliament before sharing money.

  • Dele I

    Vindication? The words of our elders are words of wisdom. Please get ready for public accountability at any investigation agency in Nigeria ex-dual Minister. This is a requirement for any public officer. Only the wicked run when no one is pursuing.

  • Wordchamp

    The facts are clear. Dr Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala has no case to answer. It’s pathetic how some detractors are looking at the situation through their malice-coloured lens; hence seeing the wrong picture.