By Christiana Ekpa
The House Of Representatives Ad-hoc Committee Investigating the status Of recovered loots between 2002 and 2020 yesterday displayed anger Over The refusal of Accountant General of the Federation, Ahmed Idris; Attorney General of the Federation, Abubakar Malami; Minister of Finance, Budget and National Planning, Zainab Ahmed among others to appear before it’s panel.
Other Government officials scheduled to attend the hearing on Monday but refused include the Chairman of the Economic Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), the National Security Adviser, Babagana Mongunu; Central Bank Governor, Godwin Emefiele and other heads of agencies
Chairman of the committee, Adejoro Adeogun, at the hearing, said the action of the ministers and heads of agencies was a “mark of disrespect for the National Assembly” and would not be tolerated.
The committee, therefore, ordered that the Accountant General of the Federation must appear before the committee in person at 10 am on Tuesday.
The committee also directed that the Attorney General of the Federation must also appear before the committee in person.
The committee had invited the Attorney General of the Federation and the Minister of Finance, Budget and National Planning.
Also invited were the National Security Adviser, Babagana Mongunu; Central Bank Governor, Godwin Emefiele; Accountant General of the Federation, Ahmed Idris and Auditor General of the Federation, Aghughu Arhotomhenla.
The National Drugs Law Enforcement Agency (NDLEA); Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps (NSCDC); Nigerian Sovereign Investment Authority; the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC); the Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Commission (ICPC); the Nigeria Police Force; Nigeria Customs Service and Nigerian Navy were also invited by the committee.
Adeogun explained that the essence of the hearing was to ensure effective and efficient management and utilisation of the recovered assets.
Adeogun said, “In our view when we invited you, we assumed that you are patriotic citizens of Nigeria. We assumed that the people we invited are responsible Nigerians who will understand that when there is a problem, solution can be sought together.
“The assets recovery process in Nigeria has elicited a lot of negative comments and what the parliament has tried to do is see the ways in which we can all work together to restore the confidence of Nigerian citizens in this process.
“But if the heads of these agencies feel too big to show up, what message are they sending to Nigerians? Are you telling Nigerians that you are bigger than Nigeria? Are you telling Nigerians that you take these properties meant for Nigerians, keep them in your custody and you cannot come out to explain to Nigerians how you are utilising them? If that is the message you are sending, it is a wrong message and we will not take it as a parliament.
While some agencies did not turn up at all, Adeogun criticised those that did for sending representatives that were not qualified to speak on the issues to be discussed. He added some of them did not come with letters authorizing them to appear before the committee. Addressing a representative of the chairman of the EFCC, he said,
“When it is time for him (Abdulrasheed Bawa) to be cleared, he appeared in person. Why didn’t he delegate you to represent him when we were clearing him. He feels too big now to appear before this committee. It shows that he is not fit to hold that office. I hereby rule he must appear before this committee in person, not later than Wednesday morning.”
Adeogun also berated the NSCDC, who was represented at the hearing by Assistant Commandant General, Finance and Accounts, Fabian Ejezie, for not not keeping inventory of assets they have recovered. He described it as irresponsible.
“We will give you today to go, and appear before this committee on Wednesday morning with your written submission on the assets that you have recovered. The letter you wrote to us that you do not have an inventory, that NSCDC does not keep inventory on recovered assets, that is irresponsible. It just does not give any indication that you know want you are doing. So, please, we will excuse you now. Go back and get us that inventory. Go and sort out your internal affairs and come back here on Wednesday morning.” he said
The House had recently constituted the panel to investigate the use of recovered loot and assets from former government officials.