The Sultan of Sokoto, Muhammadu Sa’ad Abubakar III on Tuesday urged the Federal government to explain to Nigerians how much loots it had recovered and what they were being used for.
He spoke in Sokoto at the zonal dialogue with stakeholders on the National Ethics and Integrity Policy, organized by the Office of the Secretary to the Government of the Federation, in collaboration with the Independent Corrupt Practices and other Related Offences Commission for the northwest zone.
The Sultan, represented by the Wazirin Sokoto, Prof. Sambo Wali Junaidu, said keeping mute on the recovered loots would spell doom for the fight against corruption in the country.
“The government owes Nigerians an explanation, we want to know how much billions of naira was recovered from our past leaders. Where the monies are and what are they doing with them?
“This explanation is necessary considering the state of our education and other infrastructure like roads which need serious government attention,” he said.
He said the founders of the Sokoto Caliphate had written many books on corruption and how it could be addressed using Islamic ways.
The Sultan urged Nigerian leaders to obtain copies of those books in order to be guided in getting to tackling corruption.
The zonal head of ICPC in charge of Sokoto, Kebbi and Zamfara States, Ibrahim Alkali said the national ethics and integrity policy was a child of necessity as “it was conceived and delivered out of the urgent need to resuscitate and rejuvenate our lost values of honesty and integrity as a nation.”
Recovered assets constitute budgetary item — Malami
Also on Tuesday, the House of Representatives ad-hoc committee investigating the status of all recovered loots, movable and immovable assets from 2002 to 2020 demanded the details of the accounts of the recovered loots from the Accountant-General of the Federation, Ahmed Idris.
The Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami, who also appeared before the committee, said: “All these assets as recovered are indeed lodged with the CBN Account on Assets Recovery and the receipts of the amounts have been confirmed by the CBN.
“Recovered assets have constituted budgetary item that has been appropriated by the NASS and among other monies.”
Malami said the government the government had recorded some modest achievements regarding asset recoveries.
He said: “In that respect, we had succeeded in December 2017 to recover $322m from Switzerland. That asset recovered is known as Abacha loot.
“Again in May 2020, we succeeded in recovering $311, 797, 866.11 from the Island of Jersey and indeed UK. In October 2020, we recovered 5, 494, 743.71 Euros from the Republic of Northern Ireland in Nigeria known as Abacha Loot. And of recent, we succeeded in May 2021 in recovering £4. 214, 017 from UK known as Ibori loot.”
He said there were multiple dimensions to the status of recovered assets, both foreign and local.
Delay in passage of Proceeds of Crimes Bill
Malami said the delay in the passage of the Proceeds of Crimes Bill by the National Assembly affected the recovery efforts of the Federal Government.
“As at the time we came into office, we realized there was no coordinated way through which recovered assets were being coordinated in terms of disposal and associated things.
“What we did was to put in place a legal framework to consider the possibility of having a legal framework and develop the Proceeds of Crime Bill which was transmitted by the executive to the National Assembly as far back as 2017.
“Embedded in the POCA Bill was the assets management and recovery agency and I regret to state that as far back as 2017 to 2019, up to the present moment, that legislative framework could not be achieved on account of the fact that the POCA was not passed by NASS.
“If indeed the NASS has passed the POCA Bill, I cannot be here scampering and perhaps scouting for information relating to the recovered assets because that bill has indeed put in place and effective mechanism in terms of database, disposal, processes and procedure.
“So, the starting point is to state that there has been inaction on the part of the NASS with particular regards to having in place a coordinated legal framework and assets tracing and disposal management,” he said.
Malami, however, noted that despite the challenges, the recovery efforts had been yielding positive result as funds were being recovered.
£4.2m Ibori loot released to Delta – Accountant-General
The Accountant-General, Ahmed Idris, told the committee that the recovered £4.2m Ibori loot had been paid to Delta State.
He said recovered funds should be paid to the states from where the funds were stolen, noting that the Federal Government had, in the past, paid Plateau and another state when funds stolen from there were recovered.
“I know there was a time recovery was made on behalf of Plateau State. There was one for Bayelsa. There was one for different states, even Delta. Such recoveries go specifically to those states.”
When asked by the chairman of the committee about the recent Ibori loot received from the United Kingdom. The Accountant-General responded: “It has been paid to the state. It was paid to Delta State.
“Any recovery arising from looted funds from a particular state goes to the state. The state governors would not even allow this to fly.
“They’ll take Federal Government to court for holding their money. So, we don’t joke and we don’t play with that. We pay them their money,” he said.
“There’s need to identify and address these matters so that they’re not left under lacunas. We’re the treasury, and the treasury has specific functions in line with the extant rules and regulations.
“Documentation, custody of accounts, management of accounts, maintenance of accounts, making releases to the arms of government is the function of the treasury of the federal republic of Nigeria and I head the treasury. So, I take responsibility for all these,” he said.
Reps demand details of recovered funds accounts
The committee demanded clarifications on some transactions regarding the recovery and other accounts being operated with the Central Bank of Nigeria.
The chairman of the committee, Adejoro Adeogun, directed the Accountant-General should furnish the committee with all the necessary documents on the operations of the TSA, the recoveries as well as other accounts being operated by the CBN.
The Accountant-General is to appear before the committee on Friday; while the EFCC, the ICPC and others are to appear before the committee between Wednesday and Thursday.