- The $321million General Sani Abacha’s loot repatriated from Switzerland is still a subject of debate within government circles
- The presidency had ordered the distribution of the monies to indigent Nigerians prior to the 2019 elections
- The National Assembly kicked against such expenditure, insisting it was never part of the 2018 budget
The alleged disbursement by the federal government of the $321million General Sani Abacha’s loot, repatriated from Switzerland, without clearance from the National Assembly is still causing ripples in government circles.
According to The Guardian, while the Senate insists that is unaware of any budgetary proposal from the executive regarding the sharing of the money, the House of Representatives expressed surprise over claims that the presidency ordered the distribution of the monies to indigent Nigerians prior to the 2019 elections.
But the presidency insists that the implementation of the disbursement mainstreamed in the federal government’s Social Investment Programme (SIP) and meant to address abject poverty commenced since August last year, after the programme met the back-end requirement of the World Bank to ensure accountability and transparency of the distribution.
However, according to the Senate appropriation committee led by Senator Danjuma Goje, such expenditure was never part of the 2018 budget.
A member of the committee who asked not to be named lamented that the matter was gradually ending up under the carpet.
According to him, since the federal government announced its plans to share the money to poor households mid last year, there has been no communication to the Senate regarding how it would be done.
The All Progressives Congress (APC) senator who hails from one of the northern states, however, insisted that government should comply with the provisions of the constitution, which stipulates that all such monies accruing to it be appropriated by the National Assembly.
The chairman of the Senate committee on domestic and foreign debt, Senator Shehu Sani, was one of the first set of lawmakers to protest government’s decision to share the money to poor households.
According to him, sharing of the loot to 180m Nigerians was impossible, adding that the money would end up with beneficiaries nominated by governors, ministers, lawmakers and the president’s men.
On his part, the chairman of the House of Representatives committee on legislative budget and research, Timothy Golu said: “As I speak to you now, I don’t know anything about such money and I don’t want to speculate over what I don’t know. I must be sure of the facts before barring my mind on the issue. This is a question for the finance ministry to answer.”
The House last year called on the authorities to pay into the Consolidated Revenue Account, the last tranche of the loot and all other proceeds of corruption.
Faulting alleged moves by the government to share the Abacha loot to the poor, the House directed that such monies should be evenly distributed to the 36 states of the federation in line with the current revenue sharing formula.
It would be recalled that following a series of negotiations between the federal government and the government of Switzerland, the Swiss government remitted $321m illicitly acquired by Abacha’s family.
In December 2014, a Swiss court ruled that the Swiss government should repatriate the funds on condition that the World Bank would monitor its use.
Nigerian authorities requested that the funds be used to support a programme of targeted cash transfers to poor and vulnerable people under the national social safety net project, financed by a credit extended by the International Development Association.
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