The House of Representatives yesterday queried the Accountant General of the Federation (AGF), Ahmed Idris for making an illegal withdrawal from recovered loots accounts after the Minister of Finance, Mrs. Zainab Ahmed said she was not in the know of the current status of the repatriated £4.2 million loot linked to a former governor of Delta State from the United Kingdom.
The two public officers had appeared at the resumed hearing of the Adhoc Committee on Assessment and Status of All Recovered Loots Movable and Immovable Assets from 2002 to 2020 by Agencies of the Federal Government of Nigeria for Effective Efficient Management and Utilisation chaired by Hon. Adejoro Adeogun.
The Committee had raised questions on the N19 billion withdrawn from the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) recovery account. Idris, who listed several recovery accounts including that of the EFCC, tried to justify the withdrawals from the separate recovery accounts.
According to him, the accounts were all linked by the Treasury Single Account. He said that technically, it was an extension of the Consolidated Revenue Fund (CRF), submitting that approvals were obtained for the withdrawals. But his submission angered the Committee members who said that there were no appropriations for such withdrawals.
The Committee said there must be recourse to the law through the national assembly, of which any failure would mean a violation of the law. The Committee stated there was no trace of any withdrawals from the recovery accounts in any Appropriation Act passed by the national parliament Insisting that withdrawals must be from the CRF with the backing of the law, the lawmakers asked that the AGF should be held responsible for any infractions.
“Of what essence is appropriation if you can just dip your hands and take money from government accounts?” a member of the committee, Wole Oke, questioned. Incidentally, the lawmakers got the support of the Finance Minister, Ahmed who agreed that it was unconstitutional to tamper with unappropriated funds.
She said though there was fiscal provision in the budget for recovered loot, such money would have to be moved to the CRF first before it can be touched. Similarly, the Minister who entertained questions on the status of the £4.2 million Ibori, said she was yet to be briefed.
“On the £4.2 million I am still waiting to get information about this recovery. I have read in the media that the recovery has been made. But what has happened in the past is that the Attorney General would write to Mr President and report that recovery and then give advice on what needs to be done or give advice based on the negotiations that they made during the process of the recovery.
“And then that instruction is now conveyed to us. But up till now, I have not received any formal conveyance, any formal information written in respect of this £4.2 million. So I cannot say whether it is a Federal Government fund or a state fund. It depends on the advice that would come,” she said.
In its ruling, the Committee directed the AGF and Finance Minister to furnish it with a summary of all transactions made from the recovered loot accounts since 2002. It also invited the Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria, Godwin Emefiele, to appear before it on June 3, 2021 for proper reconciliation of all recovery accounts.