A civil society organisation, Civil Society Legislative Advocacy Centre (CISLAC) in conjunction with Transparency International (TI), has expressed concern over the indiscriminate loan requests being sent to the National Assembly by the Executive arm of government despite failure by ministries and agencies of government (MDAs) to account for their annual budgetary allocations.
Worried that the frequent borrowings might further plunge the nation’s staggering economy into another circle of recession, the CSO urged the National Assembly to rise up to the occasion by declining approval new loan request from the executive arm of government in order to protect the future of the next generations.
Addressing Senate correspondents on Tuesday at the Senate Wing of the National Assembly complex, CISLAC executive director, Auwal Ibrahim Musa (Rafsanjani), revealed that in April this year, while the Senate approved N55billion for priority projects, the House of Representatives also approved another $22.7billion, which was rejected the previous year, to finance key infrastructural projects in the country.
He noted that despite the calls for accountability and transparency in the management and utilisation of recovered loots, it has been discovered they are being re-looted while loans are allegedly diverted into personal pockets.
Rafsanjani further disclosed that findings from series of audits in the oil and gas sector by the Nigeria Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (NEITI) in 2018 showed that Nigeria National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) and its upstream arm (NPDC) defaulted to remit $21.778billion and N316.074billion to the Federation Account.
“These were amounts due from three main sources: Federation assets divested to NPDC and Nigerian Petroleum Development Company’s (NPDC) legacy liabilities; payments for domestic crude allocation to NNPC; and dividends from investment in Nigerian Liquefied Natural Gas Company (NLNG) paid to but withheld by NNPC,” he said.
To buttress the allegation of corruption in MDAs, he alluded to a report from the office of the Auditor-General of the Federation that “as ofJune 30, 2019, 160 agencies defaulted in the submission of audited accounts for 2016; 265 agencies defaulted in submission of audited accounts for 2017; while 11 agencies had never submitted any financial statements since inception.
“In total, the audit revealed that the sum of N20, 675, 801, 479. 59 (N20billion) in various taxes (Pay As You Earn PAYE, Withholding Tax -WHT, Value Added Tax, etc.) in the years under review, were not remitted to the Consolidated Revenue Fund of the Federal Government of Nigeria,” he added.
He also noted that in 2019, the former Executive Chairman of the Federal Inland Revenue Service (FIRS), Mr. Tunde Fowler, disclosed that Nigeria lost about $15bn (N5.37tn at N358/dollar) to tax evasion annually, adding that the federally-collectible tax projections gap has amounted to N7.189 trillion in the last five years.
Rafsanjani, therefore, wondered why the Senate has failed since June this year to come out with the report of $396m probe instituted to check the financial activities of the NNPC vis-a-vis poor performance of the three Nigerian refineries that operate at a capacity as low as 5.5 per cent while the country’s importation of refined crude accounted for over 80% of its consumption.
LEADERSHIP reports that the Senate in January initiated a probe of the NNPC over the sum of $396million claimed to have been spent on turn-around maintenance of the refineries between 2013 and 2015 without any result.
He went further to mention MDAs currently under legislative scrutiny over alleged corrupt practices, saying approving new loans without accountability will jeopardise the future of the citizens.
“Between January and May, 2020, the lnterim Management Committee of the NDDC has been accused of misappropriating N80billion.
“The North East Development Commission (NEDC) is presently also being probed for mismanaging N100 billion voted to the commission barely one year ago without any significant impact on suffering refugees across the North-East region.
“Some of the infractions uncovered against the Nigeria Social Insurance Trust Fund (NSITF) include N3.4 billion squandered on non-existent staff training split into about 196 different consultancy contracts in order to evade the Ministerial Tenders Board and Federal Executive Council (FEC) approval.
“There is also an alleged illegal withdrawal of $1.05bn from Nigerian Liquefied Natural Gas Limited (NLNG) dividend account by the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC).
“It is important to point out that these MDAs are under the purview of the Executive arm. It is therefore our hope that the National Assembly denies approval of another loan until these illicit flows are accounted for and recovered. This will go a long way in reducing the burden of debts on citizens which by extension exacerbates poverty and inequality,” Rafsanjani said.