The House of Representatives on Wednesday resolved to investigate the roles played by the administrations of former President Olusegun Obasanjo, the late President Umar Yar’Adua and former President Goodluck Jonathan in the recovery of funds looted by the late military dictator, Gen. Sani Abacha.
The probe also covers the current administration of President Muhammadu Buhari, who concluded the latest negotiation with the Swiss Government to return $322m Abacha loot to Nigeria.
The former administrations and Buhari’s regime are to explain the total funds recovered from the Abacha loot and how the money has been utilised over the years.
The House resolution reads, “Set up an ad hoc committee to investigate the total Abacha loot recovered from 1998 to date; establish the sources and how the money was utilised.
“Also, establish all agreements signed by the government to determine whether they followed due process. “
The House, which was presided over by the Speaker, Mr. Yakubu Dogara, took the decision as lawmakers debated a motion to oppose a Memorandum of Understanding signed by the Swiss Government and the Buhari administration on how the latter would spend the $322m.
The motion was moved by a member from Kogi State, Mr. Karimi Sunday. He reminded the House that the MoU between Nigeria and a foreign government was not binding unless approved by the National Assembly.
Sunday also argued that it was not the responsibility of the Swiss Government to dictate to Nigeria on how to spend funds, which originally belonged to the latter.
He stated, “This money was stolen from Nigeria. It is our money. So, it is the duty of the Nigerian legislature to decide how the money will be spent by appropriation.
“The position taken by the government that the money will be paid directly to the accounts of poor Nigerians, based on the MoU purported to have been signed with the Swiss Government is not acceptable.”
Sunday added that the proper thing to do was to remit the recovered funds into the Federation Account for distribution to the three tiers of government.
He said the Federal Government’s share could be paid into the Consolidated Revenue Fund where it would be appropriated by the National Assembly on federal projects.
Sunday went further to propose that the executive should immediately forward a supplementary budget to the National Assembly for the government’s share of the $322m to be used for the completion of the Ajaokuta Steel Company.
However, as the debate progressed, a former Chairman, House Committee on Appropriation, Mr. Abdulmumin Jibrin, suggested that it would be better for the House to first determine the exact amount of funds recovered from the Abacha stash since 1998.
He explained that knowing the total recovered and how the funds were spent by successive governments would assist the House in taking a position on the $322m.
“At some point, while I was the Chairman, Committee on Finance, we were told that it was $1bn.
“$1bn is about N350bn. At another time, the figure was given as $1.5bn. So, we don’t know exactly what the exact figure is,” Jibrin told the session.
It was Jibrin’s contribution that led the House to resolve to investigate the total recovered from 1998 till date.
A member from Kaduna State, Mr. Adamu Chika, also said the Swiss Government could not dictate to Nigeria on how to spend its money.
“On no account should another country dictate to us. Is this re-colonisation? This is our money that was stolen,” he said.
The Chairman, Committee on Ethics/Privileges, Mr Nicholas Ossai, held the view that the Buhari administration, in particular, had not been open to Nigerians on the recovery of looted funds.
“The EFCC and other agencies also recovered funds, but we don’t know how the money has been spent,” he stated.
But, specifically on the $322m, the Chairman, Committee on Financial Crimes, Mr Kayode Oladele, informed the House that the government’s decision to distribute the money to the poor was in line with the terms of the negotiations with the Swiss Government.
Oladele, who disclosed that he was on the government’s delegation that did the negotiations, explained that there had been concerns raised over how returned funds were abused in the past.
The House eventually resolved to ascertain the total of all Abacha funds recovered till date before taking a final stance on the $322m.