A call has gone out to the leadership of the National Assembly in Nigeria to restrain itself from further approval of borrowing by the Executive arm. Rather, it should mandate that arm to recover misappropriated, mismanaged and looted funds.
The Civil Society Legislative Advocacy Centre (CISLAC) cum Transparency International Nigeria which is making the call is worried over the rate at which the Presidency sends requests for approval for borrowing despite huge amount of resources that it says various ministries, departments and agencies (MDAs) have wasted.
It is drawing attention to approval for a loan request of the sum of N5.5 billion by the Senate for priority projects last April and $22.7 billion by the House of Representatives, a loan request that was rejected the previous year. The later was said to finance key infrastructures in the country.
“Time and again, Civil Society Organisations and other stakeholders have called for accountability and transparency in the management and utilization of recovered funds, yet the story remains the same as recovered loots are re-looted and even alleged borrowed funds are diverted into personal pockets”, CISLAC said in a statement by its Executive Director, Auwal Musa Rafsanjani.
Arguing how denial of approval of another loans until what it calls illicit flows are accounted for and recovered, CISLAC says that would go a long way in reducing the burden of debts on citizens. This, it hinges on how the debt burden exacerbate poverty and inequality.
It specifies key instances of accountability creases as follows:
In 2018, findings from a series of audits of the oil and gas sector carried out by the Nigeria Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (NEITI) showed that Nigeria National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) and its upstream arm, NPDC, had failed to remit $21.778 billion and N316.074 billion to the Federation Account. These were amounts due from three main sources: Federation assets divested to NPDC and Nigerian Petroleum Development Company’s (NPDC) legacy liabilities; payments for domestic crude allocation to NNPC; and dividends from investment in Nigerian Liquefied Natural Gas Company (NLNG) paid to but withheld by NNPC.
The Auditor-General re-affirmed that as of June 30, 2019, 160 agencies defaulted in the submission of audited accounts for 2016; 265 agencies defaulted in submission of audited accounts for 2017; while 11 agencies had never submitted any financial statements since inception. In total, the audit revealed that the sum of N20, 675, 801, 479. 59 (N20 billion) in various taxes (Pay As You Earn -PAYE, Withholding Tax -WHT, Value Added Tax, etc.) in the year under review, was not remitted to the Consolidated Revenue Fund of the Federal Government of Nigeria.
In 2019, the former Executive Chairman of the Federal Inland Revenue Service, Mr Tunde Fowler, noted that Nigeria loses about $15bn (N5.37tn at N358/dollar) to tax evasion annually.
In the past five years the federally-collectible tax projections gap has amounted to N7.189 trillion.
The embattled acting Economic Financial Crime Commission Chairman was alleged to have declared N539 billion as recovered funds instead of N504billion as earlier claimed, amongst other allegations.
Sometime last year, the three Nigerian refineries operated at a capacity as low as 5.55 percent while the country’s importation of refined crude accounted for over 80% of its consumption.
The June 2020 publication of the NNPC 2018 Audited Financial Statement (AFS) show that three of Nigeria’s four refineries gulped N1.64 trillion in cumulative losses recorded in their operations since 2014. In January this year, the Nigerian Senate resolved to probe the Corporation over the sum of $396 million which was spent on turn-around maintenance of the refineries, between 2013 and 2015, without any positive result.
Between January and May, 2020, the Interim Management Committee of the NDDC has been accused of misappropriating N80 billion.
The North East Development Commission (NEDC) is presently also being probed for mismanaging N100 billion voted to the commission barely one year ago without any significant impact on suffering refugees across the North-East region.
Some of the infractions uncovered against the Nigeria Social Insurance Trust Fund (NSITF) include N3.4 billion squandered on non-existent staff training split into about 196 different consultancy contracts in order to evade the Ministerial Tenders Board and Federal Executive Council (FEC) approval.
There is also an alleged illegal withdrawal of $1.05bn from Nigerian Liquefied Natural Gas Limited (NLNG) dividend account by the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC).
This comes to a grand total of $23.224 billion and N7.744 trillion. This is beside the $3.4 billion IMF loan to Nigeria that stakeholders have consistently called for accountability in its utilization since its release.