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Published On: Wed, Mar 7th, 2018

Reps probe banks over alleged diversion of N2bn PHCN fund

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The House of Representatives•Summon Okonjo-Iweala, Emefiele on Maina

By Christiana Ekpa and Umar Muhammad Puma

The House of Representatives has resolved to set up Ad-Hoc Committee to investigate over N2 billion and N3.8 million nonpayment of interest by Banks from the sale of proceeds of the Power Holding Company of Nigeria (PHCN) to Successor Companies.
This followed a motion sponsored by Hon. Chukwuka W. Onyema (Anambra PDP).
Presenting the motion, Onyema disclosed that the Successor Companies made payment to the Federal Government through Standard Chartered Bank, Fidelity, Stanbic IBTC, Access, FCMB, Skye Sterling, Zenith and Unity Banks respectively.
“Concerned that the accurate interests due to the Federal Government to the tune of 2 billion Naira and 3.8 million Us Dollars were alleged to have been diverted by those banks in collaboration with officials of Central Bank of Nigeria, he noted that the Electric Power Sector Reform Act of 2005 unbundled the Power Holding Company of Nigeria into series of 18 successor Companies composed of six Generation Companies, and twelve Distribution Companies covering all the 36 states of the federation and a National Power Transmission Company.
He noted that, following the divestiture of Federal Government from PHCN through privatization, the Company was divided into separate Companies known as the local Electricity Distribution Companies.
“Cognizant that, section 88(2) (b) of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999 (as amended) empowers the House to conduct investigations for the purpose of exposing corruption, inefficiency or waste in the execution of administration of laws within its legislative competence and in the disbursement or administration of funds appropriated by it,” he stressed.
Amending the motion, Hon. Kingsly Chinda (PDP River) urged the House to set up an Ad-hoc committee to properly investigate the matter.
The Ad-Hoc Committee is expected to report back to the Green Chamber in 6 weeks.
Also, the House has commenced investigation into the disbursement of N23 billion released by Federal Government to the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU).
The Chairman, Committee on Tertiary Education of the House, Suleiman Aminu, requested for the breakdown of the disbursement.
He said that the ASUU strike also affected the polytechnics and colleges of education.
In his presentation, Samson Ugwoke, Chairman, Joint Action Committee of the three non-academic unions of universities, confirmed the release of the N23 billion.
He said that the committee set up to oversee the disbursement of the fund, approved 89 per cent for ASUU and 11 per cent for the non-academic staff unions.
Mr. Ugwoke, however, explained that University of Ilorin and University of Nigeria, Nsukka, did not benefit; while University of Lagos got the least allocation.
He said that the Minister and Permanent Secretary of Federal Ministry of Education at a meeting held on September 19, 2017 admitted that ASUU hijacked the process of distribution of the fund.
He added that they promised to mop-up money for the three non-academic staff unions, with an appeal to the unions to call off the industrial action.
Earlier, Prof Abubakar Rasheed, Executive Secretary of National Universities Commission (NUC), had argued that most of the demands in the 2009 agreement were not implementable as most of the demands were not clear.
Meanwhile, the House of Representatives’ Ad-hoc Committee investigation on N2 billion allegedly squandered by the Presidential Task Team on Pension Reforms yesterday summoned former Minister of Finance, Dr. (Mrs) Ngozi Okonjo Iweala, Central Bank of Nigeria Governor, Mr. Godwin Emefiele and former Accountant-General of the Federation, Mr. Jonah Otunla to appear on Monday March 12, 2018, to explain their involvement in the alleged misappropriation of N2 billion pension funds.
This was just as the committee said it believed that not only the Chairman of the Committee, Mr.Abdulrasheed Maina, should be held accountable but all those who participated in the then Presidential Task Force on Pension Reform.
According to the Committee, its decision is predicated on the idea that the team was constituted to track stolen public fund and, should be regulated by the principle of collective responsibility.
The investigation of administration of pension funds was meant to cover the periods from 2010 to 2013 and activities of the other successor agencies.
Chairman of the Ad-hoc Committee, Hon. Anayo Nnebe said it would be unacceptable for the Pension Transitional Arrangement Directorate, PTAD, to claim that there was no recoveries made in the period under review and asked them to come with comprehensive reports of recoveries so far made.
Speaker of the House Hon. Yakubu Dogara in an opening remarks said that the Presidential Task team was disbanded after about N2 billion was said to have been squandered by the chairman and members of the task team.
The Speaker who was represented by House Deputy Whip Hon. Pally Iriase noted that the subject of the investigation has had a cheered history.
While declaring the hearing open, he expressed optimism that the Committee would be able to conduct an unbiased investigation into the matter.

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