Say FG can’t expend funds without appropriation
Want part of funds to complete Ajaokuta Steel complex
The House of Representatives on Wednesday resolved to set up an ad hoc committee to investigate how the federal government had utilized the $322million returned by Switzerland from the looted funds stashed abroad by the former Head of State, the late Gen. Sani Abacha as well as other looted funds recovered from 1998 till date.
The ad hoc committee is expected to unearth all recoveries of looted monies stashed overseas and returned to Nigerian government, look at the mode through which the funds were returned, how the looted monies were disbursed and report back to the House within six weeks.
This resolution was sequel to the adoption of the motion sponsored by Hon Sunday Karimi (PDP/Kogi) asking the House to stop the use of the funds by the President Muhammadu Buhari- led administration without the approval of the National Assembly.
The Daily Times recall that the Swiss Ambassador to Nigeria, Eric Mayoraz, had during a roundtable on assets recovery in Abuja, declared that so far $722 million the Abacha family hid in Switzerland had been repatriated in 2005.
He also said that an additional $322 million formerly frozen by the Swiss attorney – general was repatriated in December, 2017.
In passing the resolution, the House said attempts by the Buhari administration to share the recovered Abacha loot was in breach of Section 12 (1) of the 1999 Constitution (as amended) which provides that treaties and agreements reached by federal government must be ratified by the National Assembly.
Leading debate on the motion, Hon Karimi stated that Transparency International estimates that about $5 billion public revenue was stashed abroad by Abacha between 1993-1998.
He observed that, “In 2014, the Abacha family entered an agreement with the federal government, forfeiting several billions of dollars to the federal government, following a plea bargain to drop charges against the late dictator’s son.
“The funds have been released to the federal government in several tranches by the Switzerland government but without much disclosure to the public by the federal government.
“Recently, the attorney general of the federation, signed an agreement on behalf of the government of the federation on the release of the last tranche of $322 million belonging to Nigeria.
“The Special Adviser to the President on Justice Reform, Juliet Ibekaku Nwagwu, was reported to have said that in line with the memorandum of understanding signed by the Switzerland government and the Nigerian government, the $322 million will be paid directly to the account of the poorest Nigerians without recourse to the National Assembly”.
Karimi added that “by virtue of Section 12 (1) of the 1999 Constitution (as amended), no treaty between Nigeria and any other country shall have the force of law except to the extent to which such treaty has been enacted by the National Assembly.
“Consequently, no agreement or MOU purportedly signed by the federal government with Switzerland can have any force of law in Nigeria, except approved and enacted by this National Assembly.
“Cognizant that by virtual of Section 80 (1-3) and 81 of the Constitution (as amended), all revenue raised and received by the federal government shall be paid into the consolidated revenue fund.
“Section 80 (3) stipulates that no such monies raised shall be withdrawn from the consolidated revenue fund unless the issue of such funds has been authorized by the National Assembly. As a result, no monies can be paid or expended without the National Assembly’s approval”.
He queried the modality adopted in sharing the recovered funds as is being speculated, since only 19 states are adjudged to be poor in Nigeria.
“They can’t spend Nigeria’s money and spend it the way they like. And nobody is above the law.
“The money belongs to the consolidated revenue fund and must be distributed normally and federal government’s share should be used to complete the Ajaokuta Steel Complex,” he added.
Contributing to the debate on the motion, Hon Hassan Salem, stated that “how do we determine those earmarked to benefit or identify the poor families. I smell corruption in this whole exercise”.
Hon Uzoma Nkem-Abonta, said that ” We should also look at the economic multiplier effect with all the intended reasons to feed the poor although noble but let every member make bold to support this motion in protecting our laws.
“The constitution which is the ground norm says such payment should be made to consolidated revenue fund; a departure from it will negate our laws”.
Based on the divergent opinions by House members, Hon Abdulmunin Jibrin proposed an amendment asking that all the funds recovered from the Abacha loot from 1998 be investigated.
He added that “we won’t be doing our children any good because an account was not given of how the money recovered was disbursed”.
This development made the House to put Jibrin’s amendment to a voice vote and it was unanimously carried.
At this point, the House resolved to step down the prayers by Hon Karimi, urging the House to direct the Presidency to pay the $322 million recovered into the consolidated revenue fund pending the outcome of the ad hoc committee’s investigation.