Monies kept in Treasury Single Account (TSA) don’t yield interest, the Accountant General of the Federation (AGF), Ahmed Idris, told the Daily Trust on Sunday.
In a telephone interview on Sunday, the AGF said no recovered fund should be kept in an interest yielding account in any commercial bank as that will be a violation of the TSA policy.
There were reports across the media at the weekend alleging that the embattled suspended Chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFFCC), Ibrahim Magu, had re-looted the interest that accrued on some monies recovered by the anti-graft agency.
The stories were based on a report by the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN), which cited a document from the Presidential Committee on Audit of Recovered Assets that the interests on N550 billion recovered by the EFCC was allegedly re-looted.
It is one of the multiple allegations levelled against the former EFCC boss.
The committee was inaugurated by President Muhammadu Buhari in 2017.
The period covered between May 29, 2015, and Nov. 22, 2018, the report said.
The Daily Trust could not establish whether all the monies recovered by Magu were kept with the CBN or part of it was kept with the commercial banks.
But his counsel said all the recovered funds were kept in the TSA.
However, lawyers and civil society activists spoken to said in the event Magu was found wanting of depositing money in any commercial bank with a view to generating revenue for himself, he should be prosecuted.
How TSA works
According to the accountant-general, “There is a policy in place – the TSA policy.
“I am talking to you as the Treasurer of the Federation.
“The TSA policy means no public funds should be kept in a commercial bank account, or in a deposit money bank.
“As far as we know, to the best of our knowledge and ability, we have not left any public money in any commercial bank.
“However, we are not a recovery agency.
“We are not EFCC and we are not ICPC. So, if these agencies do their work and give us the money, certainly those money will be in a TSA account at the CBN,” he said.
Explaining the modalities for keeping recovered monies, the AGF said, “These monies are in different categories.
“There is what we call permanent forfeiture – the money which is permanently recovered.
“There are monies that are under litigation and there are also monies under temporary forfeiture, which means the court has given a temporary forfeiture of the money pending the confirmation of certain things for the court to grant permanent forfeiture.
“These categories of money are kept with the CBN under the different TSA accounts as the circumstances warrant and depending on the nature of the money as I have narrated.
“As far as the CBN is concerned, it doesn’t give anybody interest on those accounts.
“The government doesn’t collect interest on TSA accounts at the CBN.
“That is the best I know,” he said.
Asked if he is aware whether some recovered loots by the EFCC were in custody of some commercial banks and they generated interests, the AGF said, “I don’t know.
But monies that were recovered, whether temporary recovery, or permanent recovery or under litigation, are kept in TSA accounts at the CBN and the government doesn’t collect interest on that.”
Attempts to get further insight from the CBN on the development were unsuccessful.
Calls, text and WhatsApp messages to the CBN Director, Corporate Communications, Mr. Isaac Okorafor were not responded to as at press time.
When contacted, Magu’s lawyer Wahab Shittu debunked the claim that his client had re-looted interests generated on N550 billion recovered by the EFCC.
“It is elementary knowledge that recovered loot goes to the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN); to the Treasury Single Account (TSA),” Shittu said.
“You should know that there is no issue of interest there.
“Once money is recovered, it goes into the TSA. Those spreading false claims are fraudsters trying to deceive Nigerians. It is libelous,” he added, assuring that they would avail this medium with details of all recoveries carried by Magu and their status.
Magu was arrested on Monday, July 6, 2020, and has remained in detention since then.
He is being interrogated by a panel headed by retired Justice Ayo Salami on allegations of mismanagement and lack of transparency in managing recovered assets by the EFCC.
On Saturday, the presidency said a series of documented allegations were made against Magu, hence he was suspended.
Presidential spokesman, Garba Shehu said in a statement that following a preliminary review of the allegations levelled against the acting chairman and several other members of staff of the commission, an investigative panel was constituted in compliance with the extant laws governing the convening of the EFCC.
He said: “As is the proper procedure, when allegations are made against the chief executive of an institution, and in this case an institution that ought to be seen as beyond reproach, the chief executive has to step down from his post and allow for a transparent and unhindered investigation.
“The EFCC does not revolve around the personality of an individual, and as such cannot be seen through the prism of any individual.
“Therefore, the suspension of Mr. Ibrahim Magu, allows the institution to continue carrying out its mandate without the cloud of investigation hanging over its head,” he said.
‘No reason to keep looted funds elsewhere’
Reacting to the claim that Magu had diverted some funds that accrued public money, Paul Ananaba, SAN, said the recovered loot being “public funds” couldn’t have been kept in commercial banks as it would be a breach of financial regulations.
Maintaining that the CBN is the proper custody for such funds, he said, “Anybody that has diverted such funds has committed an offence and can be liable to punishment.”
“The mens rea (intention) and actus rea (action) as we say in law is complete, except the government gave him approval to do that,” he said.
Also, Aminu Sani Aminu, another legal practitioner said violating the TSA provision was enough to take the offender to jail.
“Nigerians would like to know how all the monies were diverted…
“They have the right to know so that they would clearly follow how the case would be prosecuted.
“As a country, we are notorious for media trial.
“I am not speaking for Magu and I am not protecting him but there should be transparency in all the proceedings,” he said.
On his part, the Executive Director, Civil Society Legislative Advocacy Centre (CISLAC), Auwal Musa Rafsanjani, said there were procedures guiding EFCC operations including loot recovery.
“If Magu is found wanting on this, he should also be made to face justice.
“He cannot flout the law guiding the operations of the commission without facing the consequences.
“It should be known that the law of the land should be supreme and in this case, Magu should also be subjected to the dictates of the law,” he said.
‘Buhari’s anti-graft war may suffer setbacks’
Anti-graft groups have alleged that the “unceremonious” suspension of Magu as acting chairman of EFCC may roll back the momentous gains already recorded under his tenure.
The groups, in a joint letter to President Muhammadu Buhari, dated July 9, said Magu might be a pawn in the desperate attempts by corrupt officials to kill the EFCC or turn it into a willing tool of corrupt politicians.
The letter was signed by Lucas Manes of Re: Common, Nicholas Hildyard of Corner House, Simon Taylor of Globalwitness – all European organisations – and Olanrewaju Suraju of the HEDA in Nigeria.
“What is going on in Nigeria is of concern to the international community. Mr Magu has proved himself to be up to the task.
“His determination to fight corruption is evident by the recovery of stolen funds and properties plus his own high moral ground earned at the cost of diligence and hard work never before seen,” they said in the letter.
The groups said they were alarmed over Magu’s suspension, noting that his “political” removal questioned Nigeria’s will to deal with a major cause of the country’s underdevelopment which is corruption.
They, however, said the international community was not opposed to Magu being investigated since all allegations of corruption must be thoroughly probed.
They said they were constrained to speak because due process and proper disciplinary procedures have not been followed.
“The procedures are clearly being hijacked by detractors of Magu in the political space and this is eroding the potential credibility of the outcome of the panel constituted to probe these allegations.
“The hounding of Magu through seemingly politically connected sponsored media harassment only makes matters worse”, they said.
They said Magu’s EFCC was “completely different from the sclerotic, timid, politically captured bureaucracy that it was in the previous period.”
“The credit for this is due in large part to you for appointing Magu and sticking with him despite efforts to unseat him,” the groups stated in the letter to Buhari.