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FG Replies Falana On ‘Recover $200bn Looted Funds Advice’

Ade Adesomoju, Abuja

The Minister of Finance, Mrs. Kemi Adeosun, has said she is attending to the advice by human rights lawyer, Mr. Femi Falana (SAN), asking the Federal Government to focus on recovering about $200bn outstanding revenue instead of obtaining foreign loans.

Falana had in his letter to the minister entitled, ‘Request for the collection of outstanding revenue of $200bn withheld from the Federation Account or stolen by looters’, threatened to sue the Federal Government if his request was not taken seriously.

His letter had partly read, “In the light of the foregoing, we are compelled to call on the Federal Government to muster the political will and courage to recover the aforesaid withheld or stolen wealth of not less than $200bn belonging to the Nigerian people.

“However, if you refuse to accede to our request we shall have no alternative than to initiate legal proceedings at the Federal High Court with a view to restraining the Federal Government from further plunging the nation into external indebtedness.”

The minister, through her ministry’s Director, Legal Services, Mrs. Rhona N. Dimude, replied Falana through a terse letter dated May 6, 2016 and with reference number F/LEG/103016/15.
The reply read, “I am directed to acknowledge receipt of your letter dated February 12, 2016 on the above mentioned subject and to inform you that the matter is receiving attention.
“Please accept the warm regards of the honourable minister.”

Falana had in two letters dated February 12, 2016 and May 6, 2016 to the minister, advised the Federal Government against plunging the nation into more indebtedness by obtaining foreign loans.

He said instead of “plunging the nation into more indebtedness” the Federal Government should intensify efforts to recover some funds totaling about $200bn which was either not remitted to the Federation Account or stolen from the nation’s treasury.

Earlier in a letter dated February 12, 2016 addressed to the minister, Falana had urged the Federal Government to jettison its plan to take a loan of $2.5bn from the World Bank and $1bn from the African Development Bank.

Falana had then urged the Federal Government to explore alternative sources of raising revenue to fund the 2016 budget “instead of increasing the nation’s external debt of $64bn.”

He said in his fresh letter to Adeosun that the minister had assured him that the issues raised in his letter were receiving the attention of the Federal Government.

His fresh letter was titled, “Request for the collection of outstanding revenue of $200bn withheld from the Federation Account or stolen by looters.”

He said, “In particular, we requested the Federal Government to embark on the recovery of the revenue of $42bn withheld from the Federation Account from 1999-2012 by some transnational oil companies, the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation and other agencies of the Federal Government.

“In your reply dated March 17, 2016 you assured us that the issues raised in our letter were receiving the attention of the Federal Government.

“We were therefore surprised to learn that the administration had applied to the Chinese Government for another loan of $2bn.

“In urging the Federal Government to desist from taking the loan of $2bn from China or any other country, we are compelled to advise the Federal Government to intensify efforts to recover the nation’s wealth which has been criminally diverted by a handful of local and foreign looters.”

He urged the Federal Government to direct the relevant agencies and the anti-graft bodies to collect the stolen wealth.

Among the recoverable revenue, according to Falana, is $20.2bn which the National Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative said in its audit report covering 1999-2012 were withheld for the Federation Account by the NNPC, some oil companies and certain agencies of the Federal Government.

Falana also pointed out the $7bn apportioned from the external reserve by the Central Bank of Nigeria to 14 banks in 2008 and N600bn ($4bn) given to the banks as bailout in 2008.

He urged the Federal Government to direct the NNPC to remit to the Federation Account the sum of $9.6bn which the corporation was said to have recovered in over-deducted tax benefits from joint venture partners on major capital projects and oil swap contracts.

He asked the government to collect the outstanding sum of $1.9bn which Mobil Producing Nigeria Unlimited allegedly ought to pay for the renewal of three oil blocks.

He also urged the government to pursue the promise the United States of America and Switzerland made to repatriate $458m and $321m respectively looted by the late military Head of State, Gen. Sani Abacha.

Falana also recalled that on February 20, 2014, former President Goodluck Jonathan “fired the then Central Bank Governor, Alhaji Lamido Sanusi for having the temerity to expose the NNPC for not remitting $20bn to the Federation Account.”

He asked the government to recover the sum of $1.8bn which was exposed by the auditors who indicted the NNPC for withholding the money after an investigation.

He also asked the government to promptly recover the outstanding balance of $3.65bn out of the $5.2bn which the Nigerian Communications Commission imposed on some telecommunications companies for contravening the law on compulsory registration of all SIM cards.

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