Buhari vows to recover funds looted under Jonathan

image

L-R: Outgoing President, Goodluck Jonathan
and incoming President, Muhammadu Buhari,
when Jonathan presented the handover notes
to Buhari in Abuja...on Thursday. | credits: AFP

President Muhammadu Buhari on Tuesday vowed
to recover billions of dollars stolen under the
administration of his immediate predecessor, Dr.
Goodluck Jonathan.
He said the Jonathan government threw the nation
into a financial crisis by throwing all financial and
administrative processes in parastatals and
agencies to “the dogs”
Promising that the era of impunity and financial
recklessness was over, the President said the next
90 days might be hard for the Federal Government
and the states.
“The next three months may be hard, but billions of
dollars can be recovered, and we will do our best,”
Buhari said in a statement made available to
journalists after his meeting with the 36 state
governors in Abuja.
But he did not state how he would go about the
recovery of the looted funds.
Buhari regretted that the impunity, lack of
accountability and financial recklessness in the
management of national resources by the past
administration threw the country into a situation
that is worse than what happened in the Second
Republic.
The President, in the statement by his Special
Adviser on Media and Publicity, Femi Adesina,
added, “There are financial and administrative
instructions in every government parastatal and
agency.
“But all these were thrown to the dogs in the past.
Honestly, our problems are great, but we will do
our best to surmount them.”
He said that a comprehensive statement on the
economic and financial situation inherited by his
administration would be made public within the
next four weeks.
“We will try and put the system back into the right
position. What happened in the 2nd Republic has
apparently happened again, and even worse, but
we will restore sanity to the system,” Buhari
assured the governors.
It will be recalled Buhari toppled the Second
Republic government of President Shehu Shagari
on December 31, 1983 on allegations of corruption
and gross mismanagement.
The President, according to the statement by
Adesina, expressed surprise that governors had
been tolerating the atrocities allegedly committed
in the management of the Excess Crude Account
since 2011.
He then promised to tackle the issue decisively.
The President also declared that the payment of
national revenue into any account other than the
Federation Account was an abuse of the
constitution.
He added that most of what he heard going on in
many agencies and corporations, particularly the
Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation, were
clearly illegal.
On the refund of money spent on federal projects
by state governments, Buhari assured the
governors that the Federal Government would pay,
but insisted that due process must be followed.
The President said that special assistance would
be given the three North-East states badly
affected by the Boko Haram insurgency.
On an immediate lifeline for states that have yet to
pay their workers for months, the President said
that a committee headed by Vice-President Yemi
Osinbajo would look into the ECA and come up with
an amount that could be shared immediately.
The governors, led by their Chairman, Abdulaziz
Yari of Zamfara State, had presented a wish list to
the President.
The wish list included:
Obedience of extant Supreme Court ruling that
all money goes into the Consolidated
Federation Account;
An order from the President that all revenue
generating agencies must pay into the
Consolidated Federation Account;
Review of the Revenue Allocation Formula;
Refund of the monies expended by states on
federal projects;
A special consideration for the three states of
the North-East under Boko Haram infestation;
and
Full details of the amounts that accrued into the
ECA from 2011 and how the money shrank
without official sharing.
As of May 15, 2015, only $2.79bn was left in the
ECA.
FG owes N5.53tn, states; N658bn.
Before the statement by Adesina, the Chairman of
the Nigeria Governors’ Forum, Abdulaziz Yari, had
told the State House correspondents at a news
conference that even the Federal Government
was currently battling with domestic debts totalling
N5.53tn.
Yari, who is also the governor of Zamfara State,
disclosed that all the 36 states and the Federal
Capital Territory, were owing N658bn.
He was joined at the briefing by his Bauchi and
Abia states counterparts, Muhammed Abubakar
and Okezie Ikpeazu.
Yari said, “At our meeting today (Tuesday), we
identified the problem and we are going to find a
solution.
“Right now, we cannot even pay salaries much
less of embarking on development projects. So, at
least we have to work faster and salvage the
situation.
“I want you to note that it is not only the states.
The states’ debts are not as bad as that, we made
it clear to Mr. President that the total debts of 36
states and FCT is N658bn but the domestic debts
of the Federal Government is N5.53tn, so is not
equal.
“So, we appreciate the fact we are all in this
problem. The Federal Government cannot pay
members of staff of ministries, departments and
agencies and states cannot pay workers.”
The governor explained that the meeting with the
President was not just about bailout but about the
way forward out of the situation that both the
states and the Federal Government found
themselves.
He said the President himself, before he was
inaugurated, was aware that some of the states
were in a critical situation as regards payment of
workers’ salaries because of the dwindling
federal   revenue caused by the drop in oil prices.
The governor said that they proposed to the
President that instead of being given a bailout, the
funds for projects that were done by their states
should be refunded.
According to him, if the affected states were able
to get the money owed them released, they could
pay salaries without a bailout.
He said the governors also urged Buhari to help
stretch the tenure of loans owed by state
governments from the current four to seven years
to about 20 years.
He argued that such extension would relieve the
affected states and they would be able to continue
other business, including paying salaries.
He added that they asked that the about $1.6bn
first charge money paid by NLNG be paid to the
Federation Account instead of the Federal
Government.
This, he said, would allow the money to be shared
amongst the three tiers of government “so that we
can also get money to do one or two things.”
He said, “Also, we urged the President to follow the
constitution when it comes to money sharing,
Section 80 is very clear. That all money should go
to the Consolidated Revenue Account for the
purpose, no account should be kept anywhere
because this is what the constitution says.
“And Section 162 also is explanatory, that
whatever is going to happen to the money will be
after sharing to the three tiers of government.
“That the NNPC or any other revenue generating
agency should not have the first line charges.
“So, Mr. President said there will be few
committees headed by the Vice-President that
can discuss the way we can move forward within
the few days.”
He regretted that states could not ask questions on
the ECA.
The governor added, “For instance, before our
group (Nigeria Governors’ Forum) was divided, we
left $10.3bn in the ECA and we expected the
account to grow but as reported in our last
meeting, the account is now $2.6bn . The sharing
was stopped in May 2013; so since then, no kobo
has been given to any state or local government.
“So, under which platform will you save the
money? To save the money is good. No matter
how beautiful it is, if it does not have the backing of
the constitution, it is null and void.
“We are saying we are having issues, atimes, the
economy will be up and sometimes it will be down,
what we are saying is for the President to invoke
sections 80 and 162 of the constitution.
“The truth is that if Mr. President will invoke these
relevant sections of the constitution where all the
generating agencies (NIMASA, NPA, NNPC,
customs etc) will pay and remit the exact amount
into the consolidated revenue, we need not touch
the oil money.
“The issue is the loss. We can have a good
President today and tomorrow you have a bad
President. You can have a good President today
that will grow the account and tomorrow you will
have a bad President that will spend the money.”
On insurgency in parts of the country, Yari said the
President briefed the governors on his meeting
with the G-7 countries who agreed to support
Nigeria in its   fight against terrorism.
He said Buhari had put a committee in place to
assess the damage done to infrastructure such as
schools, hospitals, and bridges by insurgents.
“We also raised concern about the dismantling of
military checkpoints on the highways, we are
saying it was not timely.
“But Mr. President cited some incidents that
happened at the military checkpoints but where
necessary, he has given the Chief of Army Staff
the permission that they can continue especially in
the North, South-East and the frontline states,” he
added.
The governors at the meeting were those of
Rivers, Ogun, Imo, Gombe, Benue, Delta, Niger,
Kano, Katsina, Zamfara, Kogi, Borno and Jigawa.
Others were those of Kebbi, Kwara, Taraba, Ekiti,
Ondo, Kaduna, Oyo, Osun, Edo, Anambra, Sokoto,
Ebonyi, Lagos, Adamawa, Cross River, Akwa Ibom
and Yobe states.
Plateau and Bayelsa State governors were
represented by their deputy governors.
Jonathan, others ready to defend themselves –
PDP
The Peoples Democratic Party immediately
responded to Buhari’s decision to recover the
looted billions of dollars, saying Jonathan and all
those who served in his administration were ready
to defend their actions while in office.
It said through its National Publicity Secretary,
Olisa Metuh, that in looking for the funds, the
President must not embark on a witch-hunt .
Besides, the party said that the President must not
use the action for political gains.
The PDP said, “We welcome the action of the
President to recover the alleged looted funds. It is
a welcome development and we must say that all
those who served under President Jonathan and
the former President himself , are ready to defend
their actions while in office.
“We however insist that the action must not be a
witch-hunt . It must not be for political gains and it
must be in the interest of the country.
“Apart from these , the step to be taken by the
government must be seen to be transparent by all.
Enough of excuses from the government.
“Nigerians are tired of excuses. Let the Federal
Government hit the ground running and deliver on
its electoral promises.’’

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