Nigeria’s Attorney General, Budget Office give contradictory figures on looted funds

Abubakar Malami
Attorney-General of the Federation, Abubakar Malami PHOTO: Daily Trust

Two top officials of the federal government have provided contradictory figures on the looted funds already recovered by the federal government.

The Muhammadu Buhari administration has made the recovery of looted funds, as well as prosecution of culprits, one of the focus of its anti-corruption war.

Photo Credit: Nigerian Newspaper
Photo Credit: Nigerian Newspaper

While the Director General of the Budget Office, Ben Akabueze, said in December that N72 billion had already been recovered, the Attorney-General of the Federation said on Thursday that N15 billion and $10.5 million (about N3.2 billion), making a total of N18.2 billion, had so far been recovered.

The difference between the two provided figures is over N50 billion and the larger sum was first stated, removing any possibility that the latter figure was an update on the earlier one. It is possible that the figure provided by the attorney general represents only that of the justice ministry while that of the budget office represents that of the others, or of all ministries, departments and agencies; but that distinction was not made by the officials.

Mr. Akabueze made his disclosure while answering questions at the public presentation of the 2017 budget proposals at the State House, Abuja, on December 19.

He said N72 billion of the money had already been recovered, and the targeted N258 billion would be used to partly fund the 2017 budget, the News Agency of Nigeria reported.

“We are projecting N258.6 billion looted funds to be part of the revenue to finance 2017 budget,” Mr. Akabueze said.

“Also to be included in budget financing is $320 million, which is N97.6 billion recovered Abacha loots expected from the Swiss government.

“The balance of N90 billion will be from other expected recovery loots which are now at advance stages,’’ he said.

On Thursday, Mr. Malami disclosed his figure in Abuja when the Senate Committee on Judiciary, Human Rights and Legal Matters visited the ministry on its oversight function to appraise the 2016 budget performance of the ministry.

“Let me put it on record that the Federal Ministry of Justice has equally significantly recorded success in the recovery drive as it relates to the looted funds,” he was quoted as saying by the News Agency of Nigeria.

“In that regard and direction, over N15 billion has been recovered by the ministry and $10.5 million was equally recovered in that direction,” Mr. Malami said.

None of the two federal officials provided a detailed breakdown of the looted funds including from whom and when.

The justice minister said that exclusive of the recoveries, the revenue profile of his ministry as at December 31, 2016, was N12.4 million.

He said this was generated from sale of journals, renting of part of the headquarters building to commercial entities, use of its conference hall, tender fees and sale of un-serviceable items.

He added that the total expenditure profile of the ministry within the same period was N3.7 billion, including personnel and non-regular allowances.

The chief law officer of the country said that the ministry, by virtue of its mandate, was in a vantage position to articulate and implement the present administration’s broad policy objectives in four major priority areas.

“The anti-corruption campaign, the recovery of stolen national assets, the rule of law component of the anti-terrorism war and the institutionalisation of law and order in all aspects of national life,” he said.

On Nigeria’s non-membership of the Financial Action Task Force, FATF, Mr. Malami explained that it will take the collaboration of both the executive and the legislature to scale all the hurdles.

“Among some of the demands required to become a member are the passing of the Money Laundering Act, Proceeds of Crime Act and Autonomy of the Financial Task Force.

“All these bills are still pending before the legislature and have not been passed, so we need to work together to get Nigeria registered.’’

The Chairman of the Committee, David Umaru (APC-Niger) said the 2016 budget was fraught with challenges but noted that the ministry and its parastatals were able to make judicious use of it.

He said the committee was not oblivious of the recent economic challenges in the country and was already preparing for the 2017 budget defence.

Mr. Umaru said the committee would work in consultation with the executive, particularly the justice ministry, to ensure that the budget was passed so as to address the economic situation in the country.

He added that the committee was also working to ensure that all bills necessary to make the work of the ministry and its parastatals easier were been looked into with a view to passing them soon.

A member of the committee, Chukwuka Utazi (PDP-Enugu) decried Nigeria’s non-membership of the FATF.

According to Mr. Utazi, as a country that really wants to fight corruption, if we are on the FATF, it will help us to recover some of the stolen assets.

“Nigeria is not a member of FATF, this is a very important membership which we have not yet gotten and this can help us recover stolen assets since it is one of its core mandates.’’

He lamented that office of the attorneys-general always put in applications for membership every year but failed to follow it through.

The lawmaker said that the shuttle diplomacy Nigeria was engaging in would not yield much without a membership of the FATF as no other member would give Nigeria support unless it was registered.

The News Agency of Nigeria reports that N3.9 billion was appropriated for the main ministry in the 2016 budget with overhead cost taking over N1.7 billion.

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