March 11, 2020

Corruption: Lawan seeks UN’s assistance on repatriation of looted funds

Ahmed Lawan, SenatePresident

By Henry Umoru

PRESIDENT of the Senate, Senator Ahmad Lawan has appealed to the United Nations, UN to assist Nigeria in the repatriation of looted funds back to Nigeria.

Lawan said that if such resources were at the disposal of government, that would go a long way in addressing critical  developmental and infrastructural deficits faced by the nation.

The President of the Senate spoke yesterday in Abuja when the United Nations Country delegation paid him a visit at the National Assembly.

Lawan while responding to anti-graft concerns raised by the visiting delegation, said that the fight against corruption in Nigeria continues to suffer setbacks as a result of the inability of the federal government to repatriate looted funds stashed away in foreign countries across the world.

The President of the Senate said, “The head of delegation has raised a lot of issues, and these are important and very relevant issues to us.

“When we fight corruption, we do so within and outside. So much of Nigeria’s resources have been taken out of the country.

“But even when we identify embezzled funds, to get them back to Nigeria is a big deal. And in fact, we are suffering from that for years.

“We have had few occasions when we received some repatriation, but the bulk is still out there.

“We need UN to help us, because the kind of resources that are alleged to have been taken out of Nigeria will make the country a rich country if they are repatriated,” Lawan said.

“We have never been a rich country, comparing the resources we have had, and the development challenges facing us till date.

“We are blessed and endowed, but we need every single kobo to be put into the development of this country,” the Senate President added.

According to a statement by his Special Assistant, Press, Ezrel Tabiowo, Lawan lamented further that due to unavailability of funds, the Federal Government resorted to obtaining domestic and foreign loans to fund capital projects in the 2020 budget.

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Reacting to concerns raised over Nigeria’s rising population, the President of the Senate  said, “I believe that if we are able to use our population to build the capacity of our population, Nigeria’s population will be a blessing not a curse or burden.

“It is our inability to provide for capacity building of the population, and addressing health issues and so on that makes Nigeria look like it is in bad shape.

On Nigeria’s readiness to meet the 2030 deadline for Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), Lawan said, “from the failures in the implementation of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) in the past, the SDGs will definitely have a better treatment in the country, because our failures in the past has shown us our areas of weaknesses.

“Already, we are trying to work hard between the parliament and the executive arm of government to close ranks, to focus and remain on those issues out of the seventeen, that will have spin-over effects on others.”

Lawan, expressed appreciation to the United Nations for its “supportive” role to Nigeria in response to the recent outbreak of the Coronavirus (COVID-19) disease in the country.

“We appreciate the role you play in our country. The UN has been so supportive in many ways, and of course, the recent support you have given is in the area of our response to COVID – 19.

“We started slowly in our response, but I think as a country we are now responding very well, and thank God we are also lucky we have very few incidents.

“There are countries that are more developed than Nigeria that are in a very dire situation as far as the COVID-19 menace is concerned,” he said.

Earlier, leader of the United Nations delegation, Edward Kallon who disclosed that the UN invests about $750m on development assistance per annum in Nigeria, said,  “the UN is also very active on the humanitarian front in the country and our support to north east Nigeria, the epicenter of the crisis in Borno, Adamawa and Yobe.

“We have been investing from $945m in 2017 to $878m in 2018, and $714m in 2019, and on an annual basis, the UN and its partners are assisting around 5.5m people in north east Nigeria.

“The total number of people in need of humanitarian assistance this year has varied from 6.2 million to 7.9 million as we speak.”

Kallon, while highlighting the major developmental challenges facing Nigeria said, “The UN is concerned about some mega trends that we feel is affecting Nigeria’s development.

“One, is our concern about explosive population growth visa vis the Gross Domestic product (GDP) Growth rate.

“As you are aware, Your Excellency, the population is growing at the rate of about 2.6 percent, and the economy is growing sluggishly at about 2 or 2.1 percent.

“The second mega trend is multi-dimensional poverty and increasing inequality, which is a major concern for us.

“If you look at the population growth and the GDP growth rate, what it is telling us is that more Nigerians are being born into poverty, and the figures are alarming and is a serious concern.

“The third mega trend is corruption and illicit financial flows, which your government is working very hard to combat.”