By Christiana Ekpa and Umar Muhammed Puma
The Speaker of the House of Representatives Yakubu Dogara, yesterday reiterated the resolve of the House not to continue to look on as confusion trails the recovery of looted funds and assets estimated at $2 trillion.
He stated this while declaring open the public hearing held at the instance of the Joint Committee on Public Accounts and Finance on the ‘need to ascertain the status of recovered Public funds and assets from 1999 to date,’
Recall that the House had mandated its Committee on Financial Crimes to investigate whether any crimes have been committed in the course of the management and disbursement of funds recovered by the Federal Government in the last 12 years.
Dogara said: “It is common knowledge that there are a lot of conflicting reports and claims from various agencies of government concerning the status of the funds and assets recovered from some citizens and corporate entities by law enforcement agencies.
“As a Parliament, we cannot fold our arms and allow the confusion trailing the whereabouts of the recovered funds and assets to continue. This is why the House of Representatives resolved to mandate this Joint Committee to investigate the issue in the interest of accountability and transparency.”
He added that the investigation has become necessary in order to ascertain how resources are being appropriated, and that it is in line with the duties of the National Assembly as stated in the Constitution.
“We believe that as a Parliament, we owe the people of Nigeria the duty to ascertain the resources available to government and how they are being appropriated in their interest. This is in line with the exercise of our Constitutional powers in Sections 88 and 89 of the Nigerian Constitution, 1999 as amended.”
He urged stakeholders present to be patriotic, truthful and honourable in their submissions, just as he tasked the joint committee to handle the matter with utmost seriousness as it is capable of eroding the credibility of the present administration.
On his part, Kinglsley Chinda, chairman, House Committee on Public Accounts pledged the resolve of the joint Committee towards upholding the 1999 constitution (as amended) particularly section 15(6) which provides that: ‘the state shall abolish all corrupt practices and abuse of power’ and section 88(2) which provides that: ‘the powers conferred on the National Assembly are exercisable only for the purpose of enabling it to expose corruption, inefficiency or waste in the execution or administration of laws within its legislative competence and in the disbursement or administration of funds appropriated by it’.
“It is our fervent belief that no government can make claim to legitimacy where there is an ever present cloud of suspicion of corrupt practices that hangs on it, or where there exists the corrosive phenomenon of corruption which creates poor perception by citizens of their government and diverts scarce state resources that should ordinarily go to building infrastructures and vital services like schools and hospitals.
“It is, therefore, our purpose, consistent without mandate, to conduct this status of recovered public funds and assets, make inquiries which will involve questioning witnesses on oath, compelling the production of documents and cogent and verifiable evidence of the provision of infrastructure with the proceeds of the recoveries and proper documentation of movable, fixed and liquid assets recovered.”
He also observed that the “recent statements by government on recovered looted public funds running into millions of dollars and billions of naira including assets found both locally and internationally, could appear contradictory and out rightly confusing.
“Therefore, it is the mandate of this committee to unravel these knotty areas. The details and certainty of these looted treasuries and make the details succinctly known to all Nigerians. The fight against corruption must be total and holistic. This is to clear all doubts and out to rest the veracity of otherwise of the insinuations that recovered loots are re-looted,” Chinda noted.