Heaps of unaccounted funds: Turning the tide of tottering corruption probes

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The negative stereotype of Nigeria as a fraudulent place is gaining grounds, taking deeper roots, even among Nigerians themselves, to substantiate the views of  other nations of the world. With increasing reports of unaccounted funds in close succession, this malodorous stench grows thicker. The saga of the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) with controversies on misappropriation of funds to the tune of N81.5 billion is one of such. The call to give clear account of how the funds were expended has been surrounded with confusing narratives. The saga of  misappropriation with ongoing probe has also visited the country’s corruption fighter, the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC). The controversies surrounding the issue has also left Nigerians and the world in the dark.

Just last week Thursday, another suspicion of foul play revealed itself when the House of Representatives kicked against the failure of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) to account for a sum of $11 billion withdrawn from the Excess Crude Account (ECA) for the implementation of the failed National Integrated Power Projects (NIPPs). CBN Governor, Mr. Godwin Emefiele, had failed to give full details on the withdrawals as earlier alleged by the Accountant General of the Federation (AGF). The said amount in contention was withdrawn from the ECA between 2005 and 2007 to finance the NIPPs. A Deputy Governor of the CBN, Adebisi Shonubi, who represented Emefiele at an investigative hearing organised by the House Ad Hoc Committee on Power Sector Reforms, only accounted for the N1.51 trillion as Nigerian Electricity Market Stabilisation Facility approved and disbursed to Nigerian Bulk Electricity Trading Company after the privatisation exercise. The CBN Deputy Governor, had told the House that in line with the approval of the Federal Executive Council, the apex bank granted a total sum of N213 billion, out of which N189.1 billion had been released so far, while N60.8 billion had been repaid by the operators who accessed the fund through NBET. The CBN according to him, also approved the sum of N701 billion for the Nigeria Electricity Market Stabilisation Facility, out of which N694.98 billion had been disbursed as of December 2018.

On similar grounds, the House of Representatives joint committee on Finance, Appropriation, National Planning and Economic Development and Aids, Loans and Debts Management was also taken aback on Friday with the revelations that the Corporate Affairs Commission, (CAC) remitted less than two per cent to the Federal pulse, out of the billions that accrued into the Agency’s pulse in the space of three years.  The Joint Committee headed by Rep. James Faleke is carrying out a 5-day interactive session on the 2021 to 2023 Medium Term Expenditure Framework, MTEF and Fiscal Strategy Paper, FSP, where the CAC represented by its Director of Budget Planning, Research and Statistics, Dr. Gado Shehu, mentioned on Friday that the CAC had an approved revenue budget of N15.770 billion in 2019 while the budgetary performance was N12.675 billion. According to him, the Commission remitted only N100 million to the Federal pulse, an account that left lawmakers wondering. Faleke and other Committee  members who were taken aback on the account that the CAC remitted only N100 million from a revenue of over N12 billion, lamented that the N100 million remitted, was only effected due to pressure from the committee. The CAC Director had said that the Commission in 2018 had a budget of N16.6 billion and realised N11 billion, but remitted zero revenue.

The Joint Committee Chairman, Faleke, who fumed while stating that the CAC should be placed on ‘a five-year statutory enquiry’ had said: “The amount that will be deducted from your account directly, without recourse to you in 2021 is N7.77 billion. Write it down. In 2022, the amount that will be deducted from your account is N7.925 billion. In 2023, by the grace of God, God spearing our lives, the amount that will be deducted from your account is N8 billion.”

Changing the narrative of the stench robbing on the Country is a high call of note. The resonance of these discrepancies in the accounts of Government Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs) is saddening to say the least. Continuous reports of misappropriation and mismanagement of the Federation’s commonwealth is an heartbreaking experience which continue to bite hard on Nigerians who are passing through hard times. The reports of billions in naira and dollars which are being diverted and looted paint Nigeria in negative light around the world.

Tackling corruption is urgent, and the government needs to be a little more strategic.  Rather than relying mostly on the existing reative measures, it is significant that the drumbeat be transformed to accommodate stronger preventive systems. Such systems that demand almost instant accountability in work processes should be set in place. It is essential that the Federal Executive and the National Assembly work hand-in-hand to institute processes of fair platforms for public hearings where Nigerians would be accommodated to throw questions to representatives of government MDAs with questionable accounts of misappropriation and mismanagement.

At the height of controversial outcomes surrounding several misappropriated funds, making details of unaccounted funds open enough for Public consumption is very essential for questioning by intelligent Nigerian citizens. The National Assembly as representatives of the citizens across the Federation should make its hearings of corrupt allegations open, while details of all suspected discrepancies be made known to Nigerians. Clandestine hearings during probes by both Executive and Legislative panels should be jettisoned. Nigerians should be acquainted with the details and proceedings of probes on cases of misappropriation and mismanagement of funds. The commonwealth belongs to all Nigerians; it is therefore, essential to make the paths to the trials of fraud allegations on their commonwealth accessible to them. Several probes on cases of misconducts and misappropriation of funds in many instances over the years ended up smothered, without headway on the prosecution of the defaulters and retrieval of misappropriated funds where needful. The need to steer affairs from a drifting system is sacrosanct to salvage the country and its citizens from the scourge of corruption.