President Muhammadu Buhari says his administration will ensure judicious utilisation of recovered stolen public funds to address the nation’s socio-economic problems.
The president, who stated this when he received the Report of the 3-man committee set up to audit recovered funds at the Presidential Villa, Abuja, on Tuesday, said loopholes for stealing public funds must be blocked.
He said that his administration would not allow the wanton diversion and embezzlement of public funds into private pockets.
According to him, the Federal Government will continue to take all necessary measures to deprive looters of public assets access to the fruits of their crimes.
Buhari said: “It is in keeping with the anti-corruption policy of this government, and in line with global best practices that this Committee was set-up to review our asset recovery and management practices in order to evolve a proper management, transparency and accountability culture in the management of recovered assets.
“Given our history of impunity, much of Nigeria’s wealth has historically been squandered or stolen; leaving us with inadequate infrastructure for our growing population and economy.
“Asset Recovery is thus one of the essential tools for fighting corruption and we must therefore take issues of managing such recovered assets very seriously.”
To this end, Buhari assured Nigerians that the findings and recommendations of the Committee would be carefully examined and given due consideration with a view to implementing the recommendations.
According to the President, the nation’s asset recovery and management system will in future be transparently, effectively and efficiently managed; and government will set-out a fresh template of public accountability in the country.
He said: “However, a key tool that will revolutionize our asset recovery and management architecture is the ‘Proceeds of Crimes Bill’, which is currently awaiting passage by the National Assembly.
“Once the Bill is passed and assented, many of the challenges facing our asset recovery and management practice will be adequately taken care of as the Bill addresses most of the challenges facing effective asset recovery and management in Nigeria.”
Buhari, therefore, enjoined the National Assembly to take necessary steps to pass the Bill.
He reassured Nigerians that his administration would continue to keep faith with its promise, and would remain committed “until Nigeria triumphs over the evil of corruption, attain a prosperous economic status and surmounts all her security challenges’’.
According to the president, corruption constitutes a threat to the well-being, national security, and economy of Nigeria.
He thanked members of the Committee for performing their duties diligently.
In his remarks at the event, the Minister of Justice and Attorney General of the Federation, Abubakar Malami, disclosed that the committee had so far recovered N769billion within the period under review.
According to him, N13.8billion was also recovered from tax evaders in May 2018 while government paid N439.2million to about 14 whistle blowers who gave specific information on tax evasion.
He added that N3.8million, 378million dollars 27,800 pounds were equally recovered from public officials in the period under review.
The Chairman of the committee, Olufemi Lijadu, expressed optimism that the findings of the committee and its recommendations would assist the government in its efforts toward ensuring that all assets are accounted for and managed in an accurate, transparent and logical manner.
He said the Report of the committee was in five volumes, saying “Volume I is the Main Report which contains the committee’s findings and recommendations.
Lijadu said: “Volume II contains the detailed schedule of cash recoveries.’’
According to him, Volume III contains detailed schedule of non-cash recoveries and Volume IV contains correspondence with auditees while Volume V contains presentations and memoranda from auditees and professional organizations.”
Lijadu said the agencies covered by the audit were, the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, Independent Corrupt Practices Commission and the Nigeria Police Force.
Others were Pension Transitional Arrangement Department, Federal Ministry of Finance, Ministry of Justice, Office of the National Security Adviser and the Department of State Services.