The Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Mr Abubakar Malami (SAN), says the Federal Government has recovered N15billion and $10.5 million so far in its asset recovery drive.
Malami disclosed this yesterday in Abuja when the Senate Committee on Judiciary, Human Rights and Legal Matters visited the ministry on its oversight function to appraise the 2016 budget performance of the ministry.
“Let me put it on record that the Federal Ministry of Justice has equally significantly recorded success in the recovery drive as it relates to the looted funds.
“In that regard and direction, over N15billion has been recovered by the ministry and $10.5million was equally recovered in that direction,’’ Malami said.
The minister said that exclusive of the recoveries, the revenue profile of the ministry as at December 31, 2016, was N12.4million.
He said this was generated from sale of journals, renting of part of the headquarters building to commercial entities, use of its conference hall, tender fees and sale of un-serviceable items.
He added that the total expenditure profile of the ministry within the same period was N3.7billion, including personnel and non-regular allowances.
The chief law officer of the country said that the ministry, by virtue of its mandate, was in a vantage position to articulate and implement the present administration’s broad policy objectives in four major priority areas.
“The anti-corruption campaign, the recovery of stolen national assets, the rule of law component of the anti-terrorism war and the institutionalisation of law and order in all aspects of national life,’’ he said.
On Nigeria’s non-membership of the Financial Action Task Force (FATF), Malami explained that it will take the collaboration of both the executive and the legislature to scale all the hurdles.
“Among some of the demands required to become a member are the passing of the Money Laundering Act, Proceeds of Crime Act and Autonomy of the Financial Task Force.
“All these bills are still pending before the legislature and have not been passed, so we need to work together to get Nigeria registered.’’
The Chairman of the Committee, Sen. David Umaru (APC-Niger) said the 2016 budget was fraught with challenges but noted that the ministry and its parastatals was able to make judicious use of it.
He said the committee was not oblivious of the recent economic challenges in the country and was already preparing for the 2017 budget defence.
Umaru said the committee would work in consultation with the executive, particularly the justice ministry, to ensure that the budget was passed so as to address the economic situation in the country.
He added that the committee was also working to ensure that all bills necessary to make the work of the ministry and its parastatals easier were been looked into with a view to passing them soon.
A member of the committee, Sen. Chukwuka Utazi (PDP-Enugu) decried Nigeria’s non-membership of the FATF.
According to Utazi, as a country that really wants to fight corruption, if we are on the FATF, it will help us to recover some of the stolen assets.
“Nigeria is not a member of FATF, this is a very important membership which we have not yet gotten and this can help us recover stolen assets since it is one of its core mandates.’’
He lamented that office of the attorneys-general always put in applications for membership every year but failed to follow it through.
The lawmaker said that the shuttle diplomacy Nigeria was engaging in would not yield much without a membership of the FATF as no other member would give Nigeria support unless it was registered.
It would be recalled that N3.9billion was appropriated for the main ministry in the 2016 budget with overhead cost taking over N1.7billion.
Meanwhile, the House of Representatives has begun investigation of the allegedly missing $1.1billion signature bonuses which accrued to the country from Oil Prospecting Licences (OPLs).
Consequently, the House has invited the Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), Mr Godwin Emefiele; the Group Managing Director, Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation NNPC), Dr Maikanti Baru, and the Executive Secretary, Department of Petroleum Resources (DPR), Mr Mordecai Baba Ladan, to come and explain the whereabouts of the money.
The chief executives are expected to appear before the ad-hoc committee of the House on Oil Prospecting Licences (OPLs) and Oil Mining Leases (OMLs) on Monday, February 1, 2017.
The committee had Wednesday refused to grant audience to representatives of the agencies, as they observed that none of them could present a letter authorising them to represent their chief executives in that capacity.
The committee particularly complained that the CBN boss had ignored the three letters it had written to the apex bank, and threatened to issue a warrant of arrest on Emefiele should he fail to appear before it as scheduled.
Chairman of the committee, Hon. Gideon Gwani, noted that the signature bonuses paid by owners of some OPLs, which amounted to over $1billion, could not be traced.
According to Gwani, all efforts to trace the money were futile as the DPR, CBN, Petroleum Technology Development Fund (PTDF), NNPC and the accountant-general’s office denied the committee details of the transaction.
He explained that the DPR could not confirm if the fees claimed to have been paid by the oil companies had actually been received by the government through the CBN, the banker to the Federal Government.
“It has been realised through our investigation that we need, seriously, evidence to prove that signature bonuses are paid,” he said.
Gwani stated further that the DPR advised the committee to request the information directly from the CBN, while the CBN told the committee to liaise with the NNPC on OPLs and OMLs, with the DPR on royalties, and with the accountant-general of the federation on signature bonuses.
The committee established that signature bonuses amounting to $835 million, which accrued from OPL 250, 291, 332, 276, 321,323,283,315, 257, 279, 285, 288, 298, 471, 289, 284 and 236, as well as part payment of $271.18 million signature bonuses from OPL 214, 324, 320, 318, 256, 242, 223, 221, 245, 247, 322, 248 and 249, could not be traced.
“We need evidence that full payments were made for OPLs 250, 291, 332, 276, 321, 323, 283, 315, 257, 279, 285, 288, 298, 471, 289, 284 and 236, and the total amount we are looking for is $835 million.
“We also need evidence of part payments of OPLs 214, 324, 320, 318, 256, 242, 223, 221, 245, 247, 322, 248 and 249, which amount to $271.18million, leaving the balance of $648.2million,” Gwani said.
Although the committee acknowledged that most of the OPLs had been converted to OMLs, Gwani said they were listed at their state when the transactions took place.
“Most of the OPLs have been converted to OMLs, but we have chosen to list them at the state at which the debt and payment occurred,” he clarified.
The lawmaker explained that the committee was mandated by the House of Representatives to investigate the award of all OPLs and OMLs granted to oil companies by the Federal Government, to, among other things, ascertain whether due process and guidelines for the acquisition of oil and gas assets were complied with.
“It is, therefore, noteworthy that payment of fees before and after the acquisition of oil blocks fall part of due process required to be fulfilled by the Petroleum Act, which this committee was mandated to investigate,” he said.
Gwani pointed out that the agencies’ refusal to provide required information spoils the image of government and undermines its fight against corruption, adding that “The development is unfortunate, especially at the time when the government is in dire need of money to fund its projects.”
PROBE: EFCC Should Stop Media Trial – Rivers State Government
The Rivers State Government says its attention has been drawn to a fresh wave of media trial by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) against the officials of the state.
According to a statement issued by the state Commissioner for information and Communications, Pastor Paulinus Nsirim, “the latest attempt contained in today’s edition( May 24,2020)of The Nation Newspaper alleged that the State Government has refused to release top officials for interrogation in connection to the withdrawal of N118 billion in cash between 2015 and 2018.
“We have repeatedly said that the State Government will not release its officials to the EFCC for investigations until the commission approaches the Court to set aside Subsisting orders of perpetual injunction granted by various courts of competent jurisdiction restraining the EFCC from investigating or inquiring into the financial transactions of the Rivers State Government including its ministries, departments and agencies.
“In view of these Subsisting judgments, it would amount to an act of brazen illegality for the EFCC to insist on interrogating any official OF the Rivers State Government.
For the avoidance of doubt, no official of the Rivers State Government would appear before the EFCC until the subsisting judgments in favour of the Rivers State Government are set aside on appeal.
“Resorting to the Media can only be described as cheap blackmail and witch-hunt to turn away public attention from the development strides in the State.
“This media trial that they engage in all the time will not take the place of our extant laws no matter how hard they try.
“The EFCC should stop playing to the gallery and pursue its war against corruption within the ambits of the law.
“Rivers State Government is committed to the Rule of Law and cannot be intimidated by the EFCC.
“Those who want to use the EFCC to promote their political agenda in the State will fail because we know their antics.
“Targeting Rivers State for this occasional media trial should be seen by the public for what it is, “political witch-hunt,” the statement said.
Rivers Records 27 New Coronavirus Cases …Manager Of Prodest Hotel Among The New Cases
Rivers State has recorded 27 new positive coronavirus cases.
A statement signed by the Rivers state Ministry of Information and Communications, Pastor Paulinus Nsirim, disclosed that the Manager of Prodest Hotel, Eleme is among the new positive cases.
According to the statement, the latest development validates the State Government’s proactive approach towards the fight against COVID-19.
Recall that Prodest Hotel was demolished two weeks ago because the owners violated Executive Order 7 which banned the operation of hotels.
The COVID-19 Taskforce members from the Local Government who went to enforce the Executive Order were brutalized and dehumanised leading to the death of one of them.
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