The House of Representatives has said it has uncovered the illegal payment of N2 billion made by the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) to the Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami, for the prosecution of some terrorism suspects.
At its sitting on Tuesday, the House’s ad hoc committee probing the status of recovered loot queried Malami on the funds which they said they never approved as a budgetary allocation.
The lawmakers also tackled the minister of justice for allegedly requesting payment of approved solicitors’ fees from the recovered loot.
Adejoro Adeogun, chairman of the committee, said, “The honourable AGF is requesting payment of approved solicitors’ fees. You see, you are asking for solicitors’ fees from recovered funds’ accounts. I don’t think it is proper; that is what we are talking about.
“The question I want to ask regards to the payment of N2 billion which you received for the prosecution of terrorism suspects; was it supposed to come from that [recovered funds] account or should it have been part of the budgetary spending? Is it that when you exhaust your budget, you ask these people to send you some money?”
But Malami denied making specific requests from the recovered loot, although he did not deny receiving the said N2 billion from the CBN.
“Where the money comes from is a function of the federal ministry of finance and I am not making specific requests out of the recovered assets,” he said.
The lawmakers then presented a letter from the Central Bank titled, ‘Request for approval to effect critical payments in respect of federal ministry of justice for the recovered (funds)’.
Adeogun said the letter shows “the AGF knows that this is coming from the recovered funds; which means that the attorney-general knows that he is making a request that is against the law.”
The AGF, however, insisted that the request did not originate from his office.
“There is nothing indicating a previous correspondence from the office of attorney-general nor is there anything in the opening paragraph making reference to a letter from the office of attorney-general,” he said.
The panel also raised the alarm over the discrepancies in the records of recovered assets presented by various government agencies.
Adeogun said, “The EFCC said they handed over this number of vessels to your office, the Navy gives a different number and you have a different number — the same items, different inventories, different figures.”
Malami responded that he is “not in a position to confirm the discrepancies with the number of assets” and asked the lawmakers to do the verification through their oversight roles.
TheCable had reported how Ahmed Idris, the Accountant-General of the Federation (AGF), was unable to provide records to account for €5 million recovered funds said to be missing when he appeared before the committee.
The developments are the latest in a series of controversies that have rocked the recovery of stolen funds and assets under the President Muhammadu Buhari administration.