WE are uneasy with the recent indication by the Federal Government that some of the recovered stolen public funds linked to the late Head of State, General Sani Abacha, will be shared among “poor Nigerians”.
The National Coordinator of the Open Government Partnership, OGP, Nigeria, and Special Assistant to President Muhammadu Buhari on Justice Reforms, Juliet Ibekaku-Nwagwu, a fortnight ago, told newsmen that the $322 million (N115, 920 million) “Abacha loot” received from Switzerland would be “paid directly into the accounts of the poorest Nigerians” in line with a memorandum of understanding signed with the Swiss government.
We would like to believe that this disclosure was meant to fly a kite and test the waters of public opinion as to whether Nigerians are supportive of the so-called MOU. If that is the case, then let it be known that no MOU signed with any foreign country with regard to the spending of Nigeria’s public funds can override the constitution and the laws of the country.
Section 80 (1 to 3) and Section 81 of our constitution (as amended) are explicit about how all revenues raised or received by the Federation should be warehoused, authorised for expenditure and spent. To this end, the Abacha loot and all other recovered funds must be lodged with the Consolidated Revenue Fund. Any withdrawal from it must be authorised by the National Assembly. If, in their wisdom, the lawmakers agree that the looted funds are best spent on “the poorest Nigerians”, due process would have been fulfilled.
Secondly, we do not believe that spending the money on “the poorest Nigerians” would be the most effective way of disbursing this fabulous amount. There is no certified, credible register of “the poorest Nigerians” available, and there is no clear-cut metric to define who constitute the people in this group. Even the Federal Government’s Social Welfare Fund, SWF, dedicated to the “poorest Nigerians” is vague on who are the real beneficiaries.
Our fear is that spending this fund as indicated by the Federal Government could lead to its being corruptly diverted to politics or private pockets. This is why its proper appropriation by the National Assembly cannot be overemphasised.
We strongly suggest that this money and all recovered funds should be dedicated to wealth creation. We must teach Nigerians how to fish rather than giving them fish. It could also be spent on public amenities such as roads, railways and boosting our agricultural sector. A portion of it should set aside to cater for displaced persons and rehabilitate the thousands of Nigerians being uprooted from their abodes by natural disasters, violence and terrorism.
The Federal Government must ensure that Nigerians do not recover their stolen funds from old looters only to lose it again to new ones.