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Senate orders Accountant General to refund diverted solid mineral fund

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Senate orders Accountant General to refund diverted solid mineral fund

By Eloyi Matthew

The Nigerian Senate has ordered the Accountant General of the Federation to refund N665.8 billion that was diverted from the country’s solid minerals development fund.

The office of the Accountant General of the Federation was said to have illegally diverted N665.8 billion from Solid Mineral Development Funds and Stabilization Funds to the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), Ministry of Power, The Nigerian Army, among others.

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The committee chaired by Senator Matthew Urhoghide, in its investigation, discovered that many government agencies benefited from the funds illegally diverted in the office of the Accountant General of Federation with other funds meant to be used in the development of solid minerals in the country.

Further investigation showed that the federal government paid the entitlement of former President Goodluck Jonathan and his erstwhile deputy, Namadi Sambo, to the tune of N1.5 billion as a severance package from the diverted fund in June 11, 2015.

It was also discovered that INEC collected about N20 billion from the Development of Natural Resources Fund apart from N17.9 billion collected from Brown Rice Levy, Comprehensive Import Supervision Scheme (CISS) Pool Levy and Rice Levy.

The sum of N30 billion was also reportedly released to INEC for the conduct of the 2015 general elections.

While N10 billion was released on July 3, 2014, N20 billion was released to INEC on January 12, 2015, for the conduct of the general election.

Other beneficiaries of the funds (Solid Mineral Development Funds) illegally diverted include the federal ministry of Foreign Affairs which got N3.6 billion; Ministry of Works, N2 billion; Federal Airport Authority of Nigeria, N13 billion; ministry of Sports, N500 million.

N50 billion was reportedly diverted from the money to fund the budget deficit in 2004, while monetization arrears due to PHCN staff to the tune of N57.5 billion was drawn from the fund.

Others are N70 billion to accelerate capital budget in 2010, N80 billion loan to facilitate the funding of Capital budget in 2010, N80.7 billion loan to facilitate 2013 capital budget quarter 4, and N6 billion loan to Nigerian Electricity Regulatory Commission in 2014.

In addition, N15 billion was released to Lucius Nwosu as part of the judgement debt of N37billion for Genocide at Odi, while N14 billion was released to the Federal Ministry of Power for Kasshibilla Hydropower Transmission Projects, among others.

From the stabilization fund, N847 million was given to Ghana, Sao Tome Principe, while INEC again collected N87 billion to commence the conduct of fresh voters registration but paid back N21 billion and is yet to balance N66.7 billion.

The sum of N32 billion for the completion of the 4th quarter and 3rd quarter of 2013 capital projects was drawn from the fund, just as N2 billion was obtained for the funding of Army operations in 2013.

Another N3 billion loan was given to INEC to speed up the electoral process in 2013, just as an N3.5 billion loan was given to the Nigerian Army for the recruitment of 9,000 personnel in 2013.

The Auditor General of the Federation in his query against depletion of Special Funds had said, “Amounts totalling N455 billion were withdrawn from Development of Natural Resources as loans to various beneficiaries between 2004 and 2015, contrary to the established objectives of the funds.

“The purpose of the Development of Natural Resources Fund is to provide financial resources to develop alternative mineral resources Development. The Development of Natural Resources Fund belongs to the Federal government.

“Also, various amounts totalling N210.3 billion were withdrawn from the stabilization fund as loans to various beneficiaries, between 2004 and 2015 contrary to the established objectives of the funds.

“The purpose of the stabilization fund is to provide for unforeseen contingencies and economic downturn and the beneficiaries are the 36 states and Federal Capital Territory (FCT). The stabilization fund bongs to three tiers of government.”

In its consideration of the report by its committee on Public Accounts, the Senate ordered the Accountant General of the Federation to refund the money within 60 days.

The Senate said, “The office of the Accountant General of the Federation should set in motion the process of the recovery of the loans and payback to the special fund’s Accounts.

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“Ensure that henceforth, payments from these special funds are strictly applied for the purpose they were created. Ensure the stoppage of further withdrawal from these Accounts without a resolution of the National Assembly.”

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