Centre for Anti-Corruption and Open Leadership, CACOL, has called for the probe of the Minister of Justice and Attorney General of the Federation (AGF) and Justice Minister, Abubakar Malami, appears to be stepping out these days with the wrong foot. Most of his actions are becoming unnecessarily controversial.
Now, an anti-graft civic group, Centre for Anti-Corruption and Open Leadership (CACOL), is calling for the probe of the minister for allegedly stalling of the recovery of $60billion stashed in the United States.
This is even as the current move by the Red Chamber of the National Assembly to unravel the mystery surrounding the alleged missing $9.5million interest which accrued to the Federation Account from Petroleum Profit Tax Investment is being hailed by the anti-graft group.
The Senate Public Accounts Committee gave the Governor of Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), Godwin Emefiele, up till this coming Thursday, to appear before it over an alleged disappearance of $9.5million interest which accrued to the Federation Account from Petroleum Profit Tax Investment.
“We received the news that The Senate Public Accounts Committee, which is currently scrutinizing the reports of the Auditor-General of the Federation (AuGF) alleged during its sitting on Monday that the principal sums deposited, the tenor and rate of interest, were shrouded in secrecy.
“It should be noted that the Petroleum Profit Tax is applicable to upstream operations in the oil industry. It is particularly related to rents, royalties, margins and profit sharing elements associated with oil mining, prospecting and exploration leases.
‘’The media reported that the committee had penultimate week summoned the officials of the apex bank over alleged disappearance of the fund but no management staff of the apex bank honoured the lawmakers’ invitation”, CACOL said.
The summon was sequel to the consideration of the Auditor-General of the Federation report which probed the spendings of federal government’s agencies. The Auditor-General was quoted as saying in the report that, “during the examination of transfers to Foreign Excess PPT/Royalty and Foreign Excess Crude Accounts, it was observed that during the year 2016, amount totalling $6million and $3.5million were credited to the Foreign PPT/Royalty and Foreign Excess Crude Account as interest on funds’ investments.
‘’The authority for placing the funds which yielded the above interests totaling $9.5m in deposit account, the principal sums deposited, the tenor and rate of interest were not made available for audit verification.
‘’This observation had also been a subject of my reports since 2017 without any positive response from Central Bank of Nigeria. Records made available for audit further revealed that the balance in the foreign PPT/Royaltt and Foreign Excess Crude accounts as at 28th December 2016 were $0.00 and $251,826 respectively.”
This, it added, suggested that the foreign PPT/Royalty was depleted before the year end.
For CACOL, “it is disheartening and demoralizing how most of the MDAs flagrantly disregard the directives of the National Assembly and the country’s Auditor-General (AuGF) on submission of audited accounts for necessary vetting and scrutiny because there is a lacuna in our Constitution that has made it expedient for them to tactically evade such order with no fear of backlash or any sanction whatsoever for such impunity.
‘’This trend is not peculiar to the MDAs only, as the both the 1999 Nigerian Constitution (as amended) and other existing financial laws are either inadequate or contradictory in addressing modern challenges posed by corruption in the country. Since the advent of this democratic dispensation, cases like this abounds.
‘’The reason for this inconsistency is not far-fetched as deliberate loopholes exist in our statutes and other regulatory enactments that allows for not only impunities but also make corruption attractive and tempting since most of our approach against corruption is aimed at apprehending after the crime(s) rather than aiming at prevention as it is being done in saner and more advanced climes.
“We want to commend the Senate Public Accounts Committee for investigating the whereabouts of this huge sum of money. Over the years, we have been at the forefront of championing calls for the legislature to take full charge of their oversight functions especially in situations where public funds were misappropriated.
‘’With the advancement in technology today, most of the looting or financial manipulations would be effectively prevented and detected ab initio if we focused more on prevention and greater accountability and independence of organs saddled with oversight and embrace e-governance as a matter of urgency.
‘’This is no doubt, in line with our previous calls for the audit law and other useful legislation that are already begging for speedy consideration and passage in the National Assembly for ages to be accorded due attention so that the fight against official corruption could become a thing of the past in the country”.
However, in a statement by CACOL Administration and Programmes Director, Tola Oresanwo, on behalf of its Chairman, Debo Adeniran, the group says the allegation made by the prosecutor, Special Presidential Panel on Asset Recovery (SPPAR), Tosin Ojaomo, of how the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) allegedly stashed $60 billion of public funds in the US and how the efforts by the panel to recover the funds were frustrated by Malami, is quite revealing.
Ojaomo, made the revelation while appearing before the House of Representatives Ad hoc Committee on the Probe of Recovered Looted Funds and Assets of Government.
The prosecutor, made stunning revelations of how NNPC allegedly stashed $60 billion of public funds in the US, lamenting that efforts by the panel to recover the funds were frustrated by Malami, whom he claimed retrieved the case file from the body.
“A situation whereby the person who is supposed to be the Chief Law Officer of the country is being accused of working against the interest of the same country he vowed to protect its constitution is disheartening. The fact that a minister can easily subvert the course of justice by manipulating agencies under his ministry is not encouraging in a democratic dispensation like ours”, the group said.
CACOL with some other non-governmental organisations working on issues of transparency and accountability in Nigeria wrote President Muhammadu Buhari in August, 2020 requesting him to use his good offices and leadership to urgently ensure accountability in the corruption and mismanagement investigations at the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC), and the allegations of mismanagement of recovered stolen assets in the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC).
In that letter it was expressly stated that President Buhari should “consider immediate investigation of the role of Malami, in the fight against corruption, particularly his role in the alleged nolle prosequi entered in many high-profile corruption cases, alleged obstruction of requests for assistance in corruption investigation from international partners, alleged sale of forfeited oil vessel by the AGF through suspects under trial and his role in the alleged payment of the suspicious legal fees for the return of $321million to Nigeria by the Swiss government.
Also, in a petition to President Buhari by Civil Society Network Against Corruption (CSNAC) of which CACOL is an active member, titled CALL TO ACTION – COMPILATION OF CORRUPTION ALLEGATIONS AND ABUSE OF OFFICE AGAINST THE ATTORNEY GENERAL OF THE FEDERATION AND MINISTER OF JUSTICE – ABUBAKAR MALAMI (SAN), several allegations of corruption and abuse of office against the minister were detailed in that petition.
CACOL Chairman, Debo Adeniran, further stated that, “just as been noted elsewhere, in discharging their responsibilities to the people, any governmental official, whether at the legislative, judiciary or Executive arm, would do well to adhere to international best practices and Nigerian 1999 constitution (as amended) which in no small measure sets clear ethical standards that must guide our public office holders, in discharging their responsibilities to the people.
‘’We want to believe that the recent revelation by The Prosecutor, Special Presidential Panel on Asset Recovery (SPPAR), Tosin Ojaomo, will not be swept under the carpet like other ones in the past. We call on the various anti-graft agencies to look into this allegation and take necessary steps to prosecute the minister if found wanton”