Some Nigerians have been complaining for years that they only hear about tales of recovered funds by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), but not any signs of any projects done with the funds or the liquid assets. And again at the recent 17th edition of the Town Hall Meeting on the Fight Against Corruption, held in Abuja, the Attorney General of the Federation, Abubakar Malami, declared that the Federal Government has made over N200 billion from final forfeiture cases in 2019.
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At the town hall meeting which began since April 2016, the government also claimed that a whopping 114 convictions in 2015, 189 convictions in 2016, 190 convictions in 2017 and 312 convictions in 2018 were recorded by the commission since the Buhari administration. The EFCC acting chairman, Ibrahim Magu, also claimed his agency has secured no less than 890 convictions in 2019 alone.
Although he did not stipulate whether the 890 convictions were just an exaggerated figure which included suspect cases, partial and final forfeitures, and so on; he could hardly give a plausible reason why there was suddenly an increase in the number of people committing financial crimes in the country.
And while the convictions recorded are commendable, what happens to the recovered sums of money?
The N200 billion the commission announced it recovered recently remains a sizeable proportion of what the annual Federal Government spend is. Why then should the government keep complaining of being broke incessantly? Where are these monies going to?
The Special Adviser to the President on Social Investments, Maryam Uwais, in October claimed that the government has disbursed $103.64 million (N37.310 billion) recently Abacha loot recovered from Switzerland to 620,947 beneficiaries drawn from the National Social Register across 29 states in the federation. Personally, I do not know any poor Nigerian who can confirm receiving any such funds from the government. If my suspicions are right, I might say claiming that recovered funds have been disbursed to the poor is the best way to embezzle money.
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What are the criteria for classifying who a poor Nigerian is or who qualifies to be captured in the National Social Register? How many are they in total? Through what means was the money disbursed? Does the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) have verifiable records which reflect how these monies were routed? Was it through banks or was it by cash?
The rather saddening reality in this is that even the legislators populating the 9th Assembly seem not bold enough to ask the executive government questions and/or give account on how these funds are being routed. One thing Nigerians hardly do with the government is to “follow the money“. One civil society organisation doing anything close to monitoring what the various levels of the government are spending out of budgeted sums is the outfit named ‘BudgIT‘. Thank heavens such excruciating financial details are being broken down by analysts and finance experts, but another concern is how many Nigerians even consume the content which has to do with how national wealth is being spent.
The responsibility, after all, rests with us all then. To keep asking our leaders for details on where the money is going. Or else, we can altogether leave them to direct funds whichever way their instinct leads them without any repercussions forthwith.
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