Lawyer and human rights activist, Femi Falana (SAN) has asked the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) to use its power to recover exorbitant sums running into billions of dollars embezzled from government coffers over the years and proceed to prosecute the corporate bodies and individuals involved in the economic sabotage which has contributed to the nation’s economic recession.
He said if this is effectively carried out, it would help the country raise enough money to boost the economy, rather than heeding to the call by the “parasitic faction of the ruling class to auction the remaining assets of the nation.”
According to Falana, the Minister of Finance, Kemi Adeosin has not done enough to recover the money, running into billions of dollars. Hence, he said, the EFCC must come to the rescue and recover the funds to place the economy on a sound footing rather than the government selling off national assets.
Falana listed six points:
- By a letter dated January 27, 2016, the National Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (NEITI) disclosed to us that from five cycles of independent audit reports covering 1999-2012 it had confirmed that the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation, some oil companies, and certain agencies of the Federal Government had withheld $20.2 billion from the Federation Account. Despite repeated requests from some civil society organizations, the Federal Government has refused to recover the said sum of $20.2 billion.
Sometime in 2006, former Central Bank Governor, Profesor Chukwuma Soludo removed $7 billion from the nation’s external reserves and doled it out to 14 Nigerian banks. Two years later, the Central Bank Governor, Mallam Sanusi Lamido Sanusi (the current Emir of Kano) also gave a bailout of N600 billion to the same banks. The request of some civil society organisations for the recovery of the huge loan of $7 billion and N600billion from the commercial banks has been ignored by the management of the Central Bank.
On September 6, 2016, the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) announced that arrangements had been concluded to recover the sum of $9.6 billion in over-deducted tax benefits from joint venture partners on major capital projects and oil swap contracts. Although the NNPC has recovered the said sum of$9.6 billion, it has failed to remit same to the Federation Account without any legal justification.
In 2009, Mobil Oil Producing Nigeria Unlimited applied to the Federal Government for the renewal of three oil blocks. Upon granting the application, the NNPC asked Mobil to pay the sum of $2.5 billion for the renewal of the licenses. While Mobil made a part payment of $600 million, it undertook to invest the outstanding sum of $1.9 billion in the energy sector. But as Mobil did not invest the said sum in the energy sector the Civil Society Network Against Corruption has requested the EFCC to investigate the fraudulent transaction.
From 1998-2014, the Federal Government successfully recovered over $4 billion from the Abacha loot. However, based on the refusal of the office of the Accountant-General of the Federation to account for the recovered loot the Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) applied to the Federal High Court for an order of mandamus. Even though the Court granted the order, the Federal Government has failed to account for the recovered loot. In the circumstances, we have submitted a petition to the EFCC to investigate the alleged criminal diversion of the recovered loot.
In the Appropriation Act, 2011, the sum of N245 billion was earmarked for fuel subsidy. In violation of the Act, the Central Bank of Nigeria headed by Mallam Sanusi Lamido Sanusi paid the sum of N2.5 trillion to a cabal of fuel importers. Following our petition, the EFCC conducted an investigation into the fraud, but the exercise was compromised due to pressure from the former Jonathan administration. Even though the EFCC has charged some of the suspects to court, the investigation ought to be reopened with a view to getting to the root of the monumental fraud.
In a quick response to Falana, the former CBN governor who is now Emir of Kano, Sanusi, said that he is ready to be probed.
On the bail-out funds to ailing banks, he said, “The money was not given to bank shareholders and management but was provided to ensure that ordinary Nigerians and other depositors who kept their money in banks did not lose their savings as a result of the mismanagement of these banks and bad loans.
“The money remains a loan to those banks and is to be repaid from a combination of sources over the years. These include sale of collateral backing non-performing loans held by AMCON, recovery of those loans, sale of share of the banks held by AMCON and a sinking fund into which all banks are to make annual contributions.
“This will continue no matter how long it takes until the banking industry repays all amounts due to AMCON and the bondholders are repaid.
“All of this is in line with the law setting up AMCON and the purpose of setting it up in the first place.
“The resolution of the Nigerian banking crisis and the AMCON model are actually being held up as an example of how to deal with severe and systemic banking crisis. Not a single depositor in any Nigerian bank lost a single kobo due precisely to these arrangements.”
Speaking on fuel subsidy, he said “The Central Bank does not pay and has never paid subsidy to marketers and the only circumstance this would happen is the Central Bank acting as banker to Government and carrying out instructions to make payments from Government accounts”.
“There is absolutely no circumstance under which the CBN would have disbursed its own money for payment of subsidy or disbursed money on behalf of Government without authorization.”
He said that contrary to the claim by Falana, the CBN was at the “forefront of the effort to expose the corruption in the subsidy regime and put a stop to it.”