The Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, says goverment has recovered over $151m (N46bn) and N8bn in looted funds courtesy of whistle blowers.
The minister said the looted funds, which did not include the $9.2m in cash allegedly owned by a former Group Managing Director of the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation, Mr. Andrew Yakubu, were recovered from just three sources through whistle-blowers who he said gave actionable information to the office of the Minister of Justice and Attorney General of the Federation, Mr. Abubakar Malami(SAN).
He said that the $9.2m cash and others, were also dividends of the whistle-blower policy.
The minister said that the biggest amount of $136,676,600.51 (N42bn) was recovered from an account in a commercial bank, where he said money was kept under an apparently fake account name.
This, he said, was followed by N7bn and $15m from another person and N1bn from yet another.
Mohammed said, “When we told Nigerians that there was a primitive and mindless looting of the national treasury under the last administration, some people called us liars.
“Well, the whistle-blower policy is barely two months old and Nigerians have started feeling its impact, seeing how a few people squirrelled away public funds.
“It is doubtful if any economy in the world will not feel the impact of such mind-boggling looting of the treasury as was experienced in Nigeria.
‘’Yet, whatever has been recovered so far, including the $9.2m by the EFCC, is just a tip of the iceberg.’’
He appealed to Nigerians with useful information on looted funds to continue to provide the authorities with such information, saying confidentiality would be maintained with regard to the source of the information.
The minister also reminded Nigerians of the financial reward aspect of the policy, saying ‘’If there is a voluntary return of stolen or concealed public funds or assets on the account of the information provided, the whistle-blower may be entitled to between 2.5 per cent (minimum) and 5 per cent (maximum) of the total amount recovered.’’
Meanwhile, some human rights groups – the Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project and the Campaign for Democracy – have called on the Federal Government to show value for the recovered loot by immediately injecting it into the economy.
The SERAP Executive Director, Adetokunbo Mumuni, said the Federal Government must immediately inject the loot back into the economy so that Nigerians could feel the socio-economic impact.
He said, “We are not just looking at recovery for recovery sake. We want whatsoever is recovered to be pumped immediately into the economy. What will be the benefits of Nigerians from recovered loot? Is it recovery to keep in personal purses or to inject into the economy?
“The critical areas of our economy include building infrastructural facilities and the Federal Government should immediately deploy these funds.
“Another area is that if the loot was recovered as a result of the whistle-blower initiative, the government must keep to its promise. You will recall that when the idea came up, it was promised that if a whistle-blower gives information and it leads to the recovery of sums of money, compensation will be given to the whistle-blower. I hope the government would not go back on that. I think the whistle-blower policy should continue.”
The CD President, Bako Usman, said, “It is very unfortunate that the Federal Government has been recovering loot without meaningful development. Such recovery can take care of some of our debts, provision of social amenities and others. Up till now, we have not seen the value of the recovered loot. The government must work on this.”
Also, the Executive Secretary Anti-corruption Network, Ebenezer Oyetakin, noted that the whistle-blower policy was yielding positive results.
He stated, “I have a concern about what follows the recovery. Is it that we secretly collected back the loot and let go the looters without serving any deterrence, or worse still, we do not want such looters name to be known to the public?
“That will be a gross disservice to the intention of the anti-corruption fight. What is worth doing at all, is worth doing well. Everyone who has participated in the disgraceful act of national sabotage, betrayal of trust and blatant thievery of our common patrimony should be exposed.”
Meanwhile, the United States Agency for International Development, has identified inappropriate use of funds as one of the problems affecting national development in Nigeria.
The USAID Senior Planning and Program Adviser (Health Population and Nutrition Office), Celestine Carr, stated this in Abuja during the closing ceremony of a five-day workshop on Health care Financing which was organised by USAID in collaboration with Health Finance and Governance, a non-governmental organisation.
Carr said the USAID was committed to supporting the efforts of the Nigerian government in preventing women and children from falling victims of preventable diseases, by injecting more funds to increase universal health coverage to all citizens.
She said, “One of the challenges that the government has had both in national and state levels is inappropriately use of existing funds. Existing funds can be used in a way that will go a long way if it is used appropriately.
“If funding does dry up (we don’t know if it will, but we are going through a period of economic challenges), we should be able to budget the current funding more appropriately. So, we can access the means and access the drugs and human resources that are needed for Nigerians to be healthy and strong and be able to be more productive.”
The Sokoto State Commissioner for Health, Dr. Shehu Kakale, said allocation of the 15 per cent of the budget to health by both the federal and state governments as proposed by the Abuja Declaration, was the key to achieving national development.
“The 15 per cent will go a long way if the Federal Government and state governments implement it all across board. It means that more children and more women will be healthier. There will be healthy adults in the workforce and of course the productive workforce of the country will earn more revenue for the country.”
Kakale further called for the operationalisation of the National Health Act of 2014, which stipulates that one per cent consolidated fund of the country should be dedicated to primary health care.
The commissioner maintained that such action would turn around health care financing and more importantly, the landscape of primary health care which was responsible for about 80 per cent of health products consumed in the country.
The Chief of Party, Health Finance and Governance, Dr. Gafar Alawode, disclosed that universal health coverage could only be achieved through the establishment of State Health Insurance Schemes throughout the country.
“The states should have their own support health insurance; but to achieve that, we need to put in place structures. To that end, we are supporting the states on how best to place the structures for health insurance,” he stressed.
He also called for appropriate use of funds, saying “financing alone is not the problem, even in the little amount of money the states are spending, probably there are better ways of spending the money to achieve better results.”