Forfeited funds recovered by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) are not kept in interest-yielding bank accounts, contrary to recent reports against the suspended chairman, Ibrahim Magu, his lawyer has said.
The News Agency of Nigeria on Saturday quoted a report of a committee which audited recovered assets, accusing Mr Magu of stealing the interest on looted funds kept in some bank accounts.
According to NAN, the report by Presidential Committee on Audit of Recovered Assets (PCARA), discovered that interest rates accruing from N550 billion recovered by the anti-graft agency in the period under review were allegedly re-looted.
The PCARA was inaugurated by President Muhammadu Buhari in 2015 and submitted its report in 2018. Its content as it relates to Mr Magu was only recently leaked to the media.
Mr Magu is currently being interrogated by a panel headed by Ayo Salami, former president of the appeal court, over allegations of corruption and insubordination levelled against him.
The allegations were made by the Attorney-General of the Federation, Abubakar Malami.
He was arrested last week Monday and has remained in detention as the panel is yet to conclude its work.
However, former and serving staff of the EFCC, as well as Mr Magu’s lawyer, dismissed the claim of interest yielding accounts
They said there was no interest in the first place on the funds to be stolen as the monies are kept in accounts domiciled at the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN).
In a report on Monday, Daily Trust newspaper quoted the Accountant General of the Federation (AGF), Ahmed Idris, confirming that public funds kept in the Treasury Single Account (TSA), do not harvest interest.
In his reaction, a counsel to Mr Magu, Wahab Shittu, also described the claim as a “blatant falsehood”.
He said the recovered funds are lodged in the TSA with the CBN “which never generates in interest.”
“It is a falsehood that Magu placed N550 billion recovered loot into a deposit account,” Mr Shittu said in a statement on Monday.
“The alleged transaction never featured in the proceedings before the Salami panel. Magu was never confronted with any such allegation by the panel and the news is a blatant falsehood.
“All recovered funds are lodged in the Treasury Single Account (TSA) with the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN). Such recovered funds do not generate interest. This is elementary and can be verified from the CBN and the federal ministry of finance.
“This can also be confirmed by other government revenue generating agencies. Funds kept in TSA account do not generate interest.”
The TSA is a financial accounting system, where government receipts, revenue and income are recorded electronically through a single account at the CBN.
The TSA policy was first initiated under former President Goodluck Jonathan administration in 2011, which began the pilot management of the accounts of about 100 Ministries Departments and Agencies (MDAs), expenditures and revenue collections through a single bank account or a set of linked accounts.
In 2015, President Buhari’s administration mandated the full and comprehensive implementation of TSA across all MDAs without any exception.
Other Sources Confirm
Multiple sources at different anti-graft agencies in Nigeria confirmed to PREMIUM TIMES that recovered stolen public funds are paid into a recovery TSA account at the CBN, and these are later transferred into the federation account.
“Monies recovered by the EFCC are kept at the CBN recovery account on the interim,” said a senior official of the EFCC, who asked not to be mentioned because he has no authority to speak to journalists.
The source added that “the loot would be kept at the CBN account pending when the investigation is concluded and a final forfeiture is granted, (then) the money would be sent back to where the proceeds were looted from.”
The source said that unlike looted funds which can belong to private entities or governments and thus sent back to them after conclusion of the matter, forfeited properties belong to the government and thus take a slightly different route.
“Assets recovered by the commission are firstly confiscated pending a final forfeiture order by a court, then the asset goes into an auction to the highest bidder and the money paid electronically to the Consolidated Revenue Fund (CRF), also at the CBN.”
This explanation was given by four separate serving and former senior EFCC officials who said it was, therefore, not possible for Magu to have stolen any interest in such funds.
“How can Magu steal funds or interests on funds controlled directly by the CBN, funds he has no access to whatsoever,” one of the sources said.
Two separate sources at another anti-graft agency, ICPC, also said monies recovered by their agency are paid into the TSA.
“For us (ICPC), the recovered loots are sent to the TSA,” a senior ICPC official said, asking not to be named as the agency does not want to get involved in the Magu controversy.
Asked whether the commission owns an independent account at any commercial bank for such transactions he said, “from our own end, we do not have.”
What existed before TSA
A former official at the EFCC explained that before the era of the TSA, “the EFCC used to have accounts at commercial banks where it keeps recovered loots pending when it gets a final forfeiture of that money. Then it would be sent to a government account with the CBN”.
“Basically the agency used to have an account with the accountant-general office (at the CBN) but this must have been changed by now because of the era of TSA which probably provides for all deposit into a single account. But before now there used to be an account in the accountant-general’s office where such recovered funds are paid into.
“But then, if recovery was made before the conclusion of a case, which means it is not yet a government fund, the commission used to have an account where such funds are deposited at a commercial bank pending when a final determination is made.
“When the commission finally obtains a final forfeiture of order, the money is moved from that account to the CBN.”