As Reps summon Accountant General, CBN, EFCC, others
By Gift Chapi Odekina
Members of the House of Representatives committee on recovered assets on Monday express displeasure as heads of various government agencies shunned the committees invitation to appear and answer questions of the recovery of looted assets.
The House Ad-Hoc Committee on Assessment and Status of All recovered Lots, Movable and Immovable Assets from 2002-2020 by Agencies of Federal Government of Nigeria for Effective/Efficient Management and Utlization was headed by Adejoro Adeogun.
Those expected to appear were the Minister of Justice and Attorney General of the Federation, Abubakar Malami (SAN); Minister of Finance, Budget and National Planning, Zainab Ahmed; National Security Adviser, Major-General Babagana Monguno (retd.); Accountant General of the Federation, Ahmed Idris; the Auditor General of the Federation, Adolphus Aghughu.
Other agencies, whose heads were expected the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Commission, Nigeria Police Force, Nigeria Customs Service, Nigerian Navy, National Drugs Law Enforcement Agency, Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps, Central Bank of Nigeria; Nigerian Sovereign Investment Authority; Presidential Advisory Committee against Corruption; and commercial banks among others.
But at the hearing on Monday none of the heads of the agencies showed up to the chagrin of the lawmakers.
The lawmakers went on to summon the heads of these agencies to ensure they appear in subsequent hearings on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday.
Adeogun said, “In our view when we invited you, we assumed that you are patriotic citizens of Nigeria. We assumed that the people we invited are responsible Nigerians who will understand that when there is a problem, solution can be sought together. The assets recovery process in Nigeria has elicited a lot of negative comments and what the parliament has tried to do is see the ways in which we can all work together to restore the confidence of Nigerian citizens in this process.
“But if the heads of these agencies feel too big to show up, what message are they sending to Nigerians? Are you telling Nigerians that you are bigger than Nigeria? Are you telling Nigerians that you take these properties meant for Nigerians, keep them in your custody and you cannot come out to explain to Nigerians how you are utilising them? If that is the message you are sending, it is a wrong message and we will not take it as a parliament.
While some agencies did not turn up at all, Adeogun criticised those that did for sending representatives that were not qualified to speak on the issues to be discussed.
He added some of them did not come with letters authorizing them to appear before the committee.
Addressing a representative of the chairman of the EFCC, he said, “When it is time for him (Abdulrasheed Bawa) to be cleared, he appeared in person. Why didn’t he delegate you to represent him when we were clearing him. He feels too big now to appear before this committee. It shows that he is not fit to hold that office. I hereby rule he must appear before this committee in person, not later than Wednesday morning.”
Adeogun also berated the NSCDC, who was represented at the hearing by Assistant Commandant General, Finance and Accounts, Fabian Ejezie, for not not keeping inventory of assets they have recovered.
He described it as irresponsible.
“We will give you today to go, and appear before this committee on Wednesday morning with your written submission on the assets that you have recovered. The letter you wrote to us that you do not have an inventory, that NSCDC does not keep inventory on recovered assets, that is irresponsible. It just does not give any indication that you know want you are doing. So, please, we will excuse you now. Go back and get us that inventory. Go and sort out your internal affairs and come back here on Wednesday morning.”
As the committee was about to take the representative of the Accountant General, Sabo Mohammed, a member, Mr Oluwole Oke, raised a point of order to urge the lawmakers to insist that the nation’s chief accounting officer appears in person.
Adeogun said they were going to take Mohammed not as the representative of the Accountant General, but in his capacity of Head of Funds of the agency.
But Oke said, “Mr Chairman, I am just curious and worried that you will invite the chief accounting officer of the federation – the treasurer of the federation – to appear before this important committee and he is not here in person. I am not comfortable, Mr Chairman.
And I apply that the Accountant-General of the Federation should appear in person to speak to this very important issue. Year in year out, we go out to borrow; we are borrowing for generations yet unborn to pay. Even the finance minister admitted that the problem confronting the nation is revenue leakage. And the chief accountant of the federation – the treasurer – should be happy to be here to take custody of the loot that we are going to uncover here today, or to account for those in his possession.
“But he is not here and I am not happy about this development. We should take public engagements seriously particularly when Mr President assigned you the responsibility, in trust of the Nigerian people. We can no longer be taken for granted. So, I apply that this gentleman be asked to go and his principal should cause appearance to speak to us. I so apply.”
While making his presentation, the Head of Funds of the office of the Accountant General, Sabo Mohammed, said their responsibility was only to maintain accounts of recovered loots.
He said the Federal Government Asset Recovery account is the main account into which all cash recoveries are lodged, and disbursement can only made on the requisite approval of the President and Finance Minister.