The $2 billion arms deal saga continues to engulf public office holders from the past administration and the focus has now shifted to Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, the former finance minister and coordinating minister for the economy. She has vehemently denied any involvement in the arms deal saga and has accused some of distorting the facts but there is one question that cuts across all layers of distortion -
Why was the Nigerian constitution on disbursing government funds not applied in the case of the recovered Abacha loot?
In a letter from Dr. Okonjo-Iweala to President Dr Goodluck Jonathan on 20 January 2015, it was clear that there was a committee set up to specifically address the issue of recovered funds. It was collectively agreed by the former President and members of the committee how the funds should be disbursed; if this is true then why is the former finance minister Dr. Okonjo-Iweala being accused in some quarters of illegally transferring the $300 million and £5.5 to an ONSA operated account; the reason for this accusation is simple, by law any money spent or accrued outside the appropriation law usually comes as supplementary budget which must be approved by the National Assembly.
Dr Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala needs to explain why she allowed herself to become part of a group of public office holders that bypassed the Nigerian constitution in favour of an 'adhoc committee' when deciding how to disburse Abacha's recovered loot. It is unlikely to be true the fomer finance minister was unaware the committee may possibly be an illegal way of disbursing the recovered funds; the other viable option would have been to resign in protest if members of the 'committee' refused to go through the constitutional channel. In her response to the on-going arms deal probe, Okonjo-Iweala stated "I acted in Nigeria's interest", some might argue that acting outside the remit of the Nigerian constitution is acting against the interest of Nigeria and its people.
If the process by which the recovered Abacha loot was disbursed is determined to be illegal then the memo on which Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala bases her arguments is at best 'weak'. In my view the memo only serves one purpose - the possible implication of the former Nigerian President Dr. Goodluck Jonathan and herself in a process that may turn out to be illegal.
Written by Ken Uwotu, MSc (Distinction BIT), London, Group Leader, AllAboutNigeria - ONE Nigeria (firstname.lastname@example.org)