By Sadiq Umar – Right lawyer and activist, Femi Falana, has advised the federal government to fund the 2016 budget with recovered loots and debts owed the government instead of its planned borrowing of about $3.5billion loan from the World Bank and the African Development Bank.
Mr. Falana disclosed that the federal government is owed not less than $66.5billion (about N13.3trillion) recoverable debts and looted funds that if recovered could fund the budget and infrastructural development plan.
He said the independent audit reports compiled by the National Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative, NEITI, showed potential recoverable funds of not less than $20.2 billion.
“The potential recoverable revenues are said to have arisen from ‘underpayment/under-assessment of taxes, royalties, levies and rents.”
Already, the activist had written to the Ministry of Finance, urging it to, instead of resorting to borrowing, direct the anti-graft agencies to recover all loans and revenues accruable to it.
In the letter dated February 5, 2016, Mr. Falana disclosed: “From the information at our disposal, the federal government is owed not less than $66.5 billion (about N13.3 trillion) which ought to be recovered without any further delay.”
“If you require more information in respect of this matter you may wish to contact your colleague, Mrs. Zainab Ahmed, the Minister of State for Budget and National Planning. In her capacity as the immediate past Executive Secretary of NEITI she had called on the federal government to recover the said sum of $20.2 billion.”
Giving a breakdown of some of the recoverable loans, Mr. Falana noted that the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) in 2006, made available to 14 Nigerian banks $7 billion from the nation’s external reserves.
According to him, “The amount involved represented 18.39 percent of the total external reserves at the material time.
“In addition, following the crisis of global capitalism, which occurred in 2008, the Central Bank of Nigeria gave a bailout of $4 billion (N600 billion) to the commercial banks in the country,” the right activist stated, pointing out that the moneys are yet to be recovered.
“The CBN has not deemed it fit to ask for the refund of the total sum of $11 billion injected into the banking system in the space of two years.”
He also cited the $9.6billion said to be over-deducted taxes from the joint venture contract on major capital projects and oil swap contract, saying same could contribute to funding the 2016 budget.
He further added that the additional $750million expected from the “Abacha loot” as announced by the Attorney-General and Minister for Justice, Abubakar Malami, also would add to revenue to fund the budget.
“In the ongoing Senate Probe into the affairs of the Asset Management Corporation of Nigeria (AMCON), it has been revealed that the corporation had accumulated over $25 billion (about N5 trillion) debts as against its Act which put the debt ceiling at N800 billion,” said Mr. Falana.
“According to Mr. Ahmed Kuru, the Managing Director of AMCON, ‘most of the debtors of AMCON are big men who fly in private jets, live in big mansions and they have taken money and they are not paying back.’
“From the foregoing, you will agree with us that the hapless Nigerian people should not be made to pay for the gross mismanagement of the national economy by the federal government and the profligacy of the pampered members of the ruling class.
“While acknowledging the concerted efforts to recover the looted wealth of the nation through the anti-graft agencies and the Arms Procurement Panel, the Buhari administration should embark on the immediate recovery of the aforesaid loans and accrued revenues with a view to financing the 2016 budget and the infrastructural development of the nation,” Falana advised.