THE Senate on Monday, February 20, urged the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission to go after top officials of the Central Bank of Nigerian, CBN, who are billionaires as well as those of the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation, NNPC, and top federal bureaucrats.
The Senate made the call when Ibrahim Magu, acting chairman of the EFCC and officials of the commission appeared before its committee on Anti-Corruption and Financial Crimes to defend their budget.
Isa Hamma Misau, a senator from Bauchi State and member of the committee, said the $9.8million recovered at the residence of Andrew Yakubu, a former group managing director of the NNPC, was just a tip of the iceberg.
“We are challenging you to go after the CBN, look into their activities. People are buying dollars, they are hiding it and if you look at the amount of dollars hidden in the country, it is more than what they have in the US.
“We will tell you where they’ve hidden the money. Go to Asokoro and Maitama… Check directors, they are billionaires. I can mention more than 30 of them that are billionaires. I’m blowing the whistle on the CBN and the NNPC,” he said.
Misau said the indiscriminate stealing of government funds had reached an alarming level in the country such that the amount of US dollars in circulation in Nigeria is much more than what the United States Federal Reserve Bank could boast off.
The lawmaker lamented: “In Nigeria of today, the US dollars and other foreign currencies being stashed in secret places were not being used for trading and business transactions to promote the economy.
“Those who are in possession of these foreign currencies exploit the loopholes in the CBN and channel them through the parallel market to make quick gains, thus destabilising the naira,” Misau said.
He alleged that government officials, past and present, with their ill-gotten wealth are the landlords of choice properties, in exclusive areas of Abuja, Lagos and other major Nigerians cities.
Misau told the EFCC to seek avenues for reviewing its law to ensure that ill-gotten money and properties are not only confiscated, but their owners made to spend long years in jail.
He said further: “It is painful that EFCC would just arrest some of these people and after a week in custody release them on bail and at the end, nothing is heard about their cases. This is not what we want in Nigeria.”
Chukwuka Utazi, committee chairman, praised the EFCC’s efforts in the fight against corruption. He charged the officials to always do the needful in the fight to save Nigeria from the clutches of corruption.
Utazi assured the agency of support of the Senate in every area necessary to make it discharge its duties in accordance with the law.
That notwithstanding, Utazi queried the commission for getting N1.8billion in the service wide vote in 2016 through the Presidency without recourse to the National Assembly.
“This is totally wrong. You put the budget upside-down. It is an abuse of the service wide vote. We will communicate to the Presidency on this. Mr. Chairman how do you see this? He asked Magu.
Responding, Magu said, “Yes you are right. Things should be done in accordance to the law.”
The committee also queried multiple provisions for furniture in the budget of the commission. In the budget, N600million was provided under line item, “furnishing of headquarters office” and another N64.7million was provided for furniture and fittings.
On recovery, Utazi said the details of the recoveries made by the Commission was not in the annual report submitted to the committee.
“In your annual report, we don’t have details of recoveries, look at the ICPC report,” he said.
Displeased by Utazi statement, Magu asked the committee to stop comparing the EFCC with the ICPC. “Please, don’t compare us with ICPC”.
— Feb 21, 2017 @ 14:20 GMT