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Alleged diversion: Senate seeks N665.8b refund from Jonathan, Sambo

The Senate has demanded a refund of funds totalling N665.8 billion which were allegedly diverted by the Office of Accountant General of the Federation from the Solid Mineral Development Fund and Stabilisation Fund to ministries, departments and agencies of the Federal Government.

The beneficiaries, according to the Office of the Auditor General of the Federation, included Independent National Electoral Commission, Ministry of Power, Nigerian Army, as well as former President Goodluck Jonathan and his deputy, Namadi Sambo, among others.

The Senate Committee on Public Accounts, which is chaired by Sen. Matthew Urhoghide, in its report on the audit queries by the auditor-general, said investigation, showed that part of the fund was used as entitlement to Jonathan and Sambo, about N1.5 billion paid on June 11, 2015.

It also found that INEC collected about N20 billion from Development of Natural Resources Funds, apart from the N17.9 billion collected from other sources.

Part of the N30 billion released to INEC for the conduct of the 2015 general elections, N10 billion was released on July 3, 2014, while N20 billion was released on January 12, 2015.

Other beneficiaries of the diverted funds were the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, N3.6 billion; N50 billion to fund deficit in 2004; Ministry of Works, N2 billion; Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria, N13 billion; Ministry of Sports, N500 million; monetisation arrears due to Power Holding Company of Nigeria’s staff, N57.5 billion; N70 billion to accelerate capital budget in 2010; loan to facilitate the funding of capital budget in 2010, N80 billion; loan to facilitate 2013 capital budget, Fourth Quarter, N80.7 billion; and loan to Nigerian Electricity Regulatory Commission, N6 billion, in 2014.”

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Also, N15 billion was released to Lucius Nwosu as judgment debt out of N37 billion for genocide at Odi; N14 billion was released to Ministry of Power for Kasshibilla Hydropower Transmission Projects, among others.

From the Stabilisation Fund, N847 million was given to Ghana and Sao Time Pricipe, while INEC also collected N87bn to commence the conduct of fresh voter registration. It paid back N21 billion and is yet to balance N66.7bn.

In addition, N32 billion was for the completion of Third Quarter and Fourth Quarter of 2013’s capital projects; N2 billion for the funding of army operations in 2013; another N3 billion loan to INEC for the speed-up of electoral process in 2013; loan to Nigerian Army for recruitment of 9,000 in 2013, N3.5 billion, among others.

The auditor-general in the query on depletion of the 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.

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“The purpose of the Development of Natural Resources Fund is to provide financial resources to development 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 Stabilisation Fund as loans to various beneficiaries between 2004 and 2015, contrary to the established objectives of the funds.

“The purpose of the Stabilisation Fund is to provide for unforeseen contingencies and economic downturn and the beneficiaries are the 36 states and the Federal Capital Territory. The Stabilisation Fund belongs to three tiers of government.”

The Senate, after consideration and adoption of its Committees on Public Accounts, ordered the Accountant General of the Federation to ensure refund within 60 days.