*Bill on $323m Abacha loot bill passes second reading
The House of Representatives on Tuesday said that it would investigate remittances by the Nigeria National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) into the federation account from the revenue it generated from crude oil sales between May and June, including funds it realized from other revenue sources.
This resolution was adopted by the House after it considered a motion sponsored by Hon. Ossai Nicholas Ossai (PDP, Delta), indicting the NNPC for allegedly withholding N100billion from the Federal Accounts Allocation Committee (FAAC) for June.
According to the House, the probe of NNPC’s remittances and crude oil sales would be carried out by an ad hoc committee that is yet to be constituted
When constituted however, the ad hoc committee has two weeks within which to conclude its assignment and report its findings to the House for further legislative action.
Moving the motion, Hon Ossai stated that the N100billion under remittances by the NNPC prevented the FAAC from meeting, thereby preventing federal, state and local governments from sharing funds that had accrued into the federation account for June.
He said “this is not the first time the NNPC has failed to fully remit what is due to the federal government, hence slowing down the pace of government businesses across the country.”
Ossai further declared that the issue of under remittance is coming when crude oil price has risen at the international market above the budget benchmark.
He said, “This implies that the slow pace of government activities is not caused by poor revenue from oil but likely as a result of some individuals not doing what they’re supposed to do.”
He also said that many less resource endowed state and local governments depend on the monthly federal allocation to pay workers salaries and allowances, adding that “it therefore means that many Nigerian workers will not be able to get their salaries for June”.
He asserted that if the allegation of under remittance and the revenue profile of the NNPC were not investigated, the public oil outfit will in no distant time declare no revenue from the sale of oil and gas.
Meanwhile, a bill seeking to mandate the federal government to deploy the $322million returned Abacha loot for the completion of the Ajaokuta Steel Complex and the nation’s railway system has passed second reading in the House of Representatives.
The bill is coming barely five days after the House passed a resolution urging President Muhammadu Buhari to halt ongoing plans by his administration to distribute the $322million to 302,000 poor households in 19 states without recourse to the National Assembly.
The bill is for the enactment of an Act to allocate the returned looted $322 million for funding of Ajaokuta Steel Company and railway line(s) projects in Nigeria and for other related matters is being sponsored by Ossai and five other lawmakers.
The other sponsors of the bill are Hon Mohammed Umar Bago, Rita Orji, Darlington Nwokocha, Alagbaso Jerry and Nwabuwa Henry Ndochukwu.
Clause 1 of the bill seeks to establish a fund to be known as the Swiss fund, while Clause 2 (i, ii & iii) provides that the fund shall be all the returned looted Nigerian government money of $322.5 million from Switzerland;
shall be allocated for the funding of Ajaokuta Steel Company; shall also be allocated for the funding of Lagos-Port Harcourt – Enugu – Ajaokuta railway lines project.
The explanatory memorandum of the bill further stipulates that the “bill seeks to ensure that returned looted Nigerian government funds are used for major infrastructural projects that will enhance economic growth and development in Nigeria”.
Opposition has mounted against the plan of the federal government to share the $322 million Abacha loot to a cross section of Nigerians described as ” poor” without any substantive evidence of their status.
According to those opposed to this policy, such a disbursement may create a pipeline for corrupt practices by government officials who will administer the disbursement.
Our correspondent recalls that the House had last Wednesday, passed a resolution to set up an ad hoc committee that will investigate all repatriated Abacha loot from 1998 till date.
The ad hoc committee when constituted was expected to report back to the House within six weeks for further legislative action.
In considering the motion sponsored by Hon Sunday Karimi on Tuesday, the House argued that the move by Buhari to share the recovered loot was in breach of Section 12(1) of the 1999 Constitution (as amended) which provides that all treaties and agreements entered into by the federal government must be ratified by the National Assembly.
Before the repatriation of the $322 million by the Swiss authorities, Eric Mayoraz, Switzerland’s Ambassador to Nigeria, had
during a roundtable on assets recovery organized by the Swiss embassy in Abuja, disclosed that a total of $722 million of the Abacha family money hidden in Switzerland had been fully repatriated in 2005.
He however, added that an additional $322 million which was frozen by the Swiss attorney-general was repatriated in December 2017.