N1trn recovered from corrupt Nigerians –FG

The Presidential Advisory Committee Against Corruption (PACAC) yesterday declared that it has generated a total of N1 trillion in cash, as part of looted assets recovered locally from high profile Nigerians.

This is as President Muhammadu Buhari directed that all forfeited assets be sold and the money put in the Treasury Single Account (TSA).

The President also declared that he would beam a searchlight on cost of governance and weed out possible corruption that exists anywhere.

Chairman of PACAC, Prof. Itse Sagay, who spoke while briefing State House Correspondents after he led members of his committee for a meeting with President Muhammadu Buhari at the Presidential Villa in Abuja, said the amount has since been injected into the national budget.

Sagay explained that of the recovered amount, N500 billion was utilized for the financing of the Social Investment Programmes (SIPs) in 2017 and another N500 billion in 2018 respectively.

He said: “I think the Minister of Information is best placed to say how much, but I can say roughly internally is almost about N1 trillion because you see that in 2017, N500 billion was spent on this Social Investment Programmes and in 2018 the same amount for the programme.

“So it must be roughly about N1 trillion, although we also have monies that were recovered from abroad being ploughed back into the same system.”

The PACAC chairman, who described the work of his committee as “unprecedented” strides, said: “I don’t need to tell anybody, it is unprecedented in the anal of this country that we could be recovering so much assets illegally acquired mainly by public servants but not only by public servants.

“And the more remarkable aspect of it is that this recovered loot is being ploughed into the national budget every year. It is ploughed back into the national budget and used for the Social Investment Programmes.

“So when you hear about feeding of over 12 million school children, as when I checked last, having nutritious meal every day; you hear of poor families being supported to survive and stand on their feet or over 500,000 young people who are being trained in all sorts of skills and paid N30,000 a month by the government and the interest-free loans given to small scale businesses all over the country.

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“It is all part of this money, not a kobo of it is left; everything is ploughed back and I think the country should know that, it’s very unprecedented, this never happened before in the history of this country, everything is ploughed back.”

Sagay explained that the committee has, as part of its assignment, enabled relevant anti-corruption agencies with the required capacity to carry out their tasks.

“We have succeeded in improving the quality of prosecution by giving the agencies a lot of capacity building, train them in the manner cases should be prosecuted and how charges should be drawn. Judges up to the Supreme Court have also benefitted from this programme.”

Sagay, who boasted of his committee’s strides in the anti-corruption crusade in other sub-sectors, said “nobody talks about fuel subsidy corruption anymore.”

The PACAC chairman added that: “Previously, we were losing almost N400 billion every year on fake fuel subsidy payments, but now it is zero. So, generally, the tone of the country has improved. The country has gained tremendously; corruption has gone down, especially with the introduction of the Treasury Single Account (TSA) and the Bank Verification Number (BVN).

“Now you cannot hide money in the banks anymore and agencies cannot hide money in various bank accounts which they spend without the knowledge of the government. Everything is in one place, everything is transparent, thanks to this government.”

Speaking on the debt owed the Assets Management Corporation of Nigeria, (AMCOM) by high profile corrupt Nigerians, Sagay said the officials were working towards recovering the monies estimated at N5 trillion.

“AMCOM itself has taken up the challenge, they have assessed the amount of debt being owed; some as a result of corruption, others as a result of purely business failures and they are very determined now to recover these debts. I am aware there is a lot of vigour in an attempt to recover the debts right now,” he said.

Answering a question on the issue of corruption fighting back, Sagay explained that the government was excited with the exit of the 8th session of the National Assembly which, he said, worked with the tacit support of its leadership to frustrate the administration’s fight against graft in the country.

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“That is to be expected, but I am happy to say that the capacity of corruption to fight back has been reduced with the expiration of the life of 8th Assembly because that is where the main opposition to this government was constituted, main opposition to the fight against corruption, that was the centre.

“And at that time, it did not depend on which party they belonged to, they all ganged up together against the fight against corruption and did everything they could to frustrate the government in the this fight,” Sagay noted.

He expressed confidence that the 9th National Assembly will partner with the relevant government agencies with a view to combating the menace in virtually all the sectors of the country to a standstill.

Sagay said: “Luckily, the 9th Assembly is totally different Assembly; it is an assembly that is determined to work hand in hand with the government and, therefore, with us in achieving the highest level of non-corruption in society.

“When you have a disease that has been alive maybe, 50 years, you cannot get rid of it overnight. My own personal experience about corruption, it exists at every level, that is the frightening aspect through all sectors of society.

“As a lawyer going to court to file a paper, every official of the court imposes a personal tax which has nothing to do with the official filing fees to do his job. These are clerical officers and much lower people and this pervades all aspects of Nigerian society.

“So, corruption has become a culture. Some people are corrupt without even thinking that they are corrupt, it is part of them. They think it is an entitlement. So, it is going to take a long time to get rid of it.”

In a statement by his Special Adviser on Media and Publicity, Mr. Femi Adesina, after the meeting with PACAC members, President Buhari declared that his administration was committed to beam the searchlight on cost of governance with a view to weed out all traces of corruption anywhere in the country.

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The President appreciated members of the committee for the “major sacrifice “they’ve made in accepting the assignment to serve the country,” noting that, “Some of the elite won’t trust you, and you will be alienated, no matter how close you are to them.”

Buhari, who frowned at developments in the past, where, he said, assets were seized from officials who could not explain how they got them, “only for those assets to be returned to them when government was changed,” said instructions had already been given that all forfeited assets be sold, “and the money put in the Treasury Single Account (TSA),” to forestall reoccurrence.

“Let’s see who will now take back the money from the treasury, and give back to those people, as was done in the past,” he stressed.

The President’s spokesman said PACAC made some recommendations to the President, in order to move the anti-corruption war many steps forward.

The recommendations include reestablishment of the jury system for criminal cases in the country and setting up of a judicial commission on corruption in the judiciary, to be headed by retired judges under the auspices of National Judicial Council (NJC).

Others are: passage of Proceeds of Crime Act by the National Assembly; the setting up of a Presidential Truth and Restitution Task Force; and a closer look at the cost of governance to weed out all vestiges of corruption.

The President pledged that government would take a dispassionate look into all the requests.

Sagay, who led the delegation, had earlier said Nigeria was lucky more than ever to have a person of President Buhari’s credentials as leader of government.

“We congratulate you for being a star of the anti-corruption struggle in Africa.

“You attach a lot of importance to the fight against corruption, and we have tried to achieve the aims you had in mind when you established PACAC,” Sagay added.

According to him, the committee trains, builds capacity of anti-corruption agencies, and has helped to develop a programme of non-conviction assets recovery, which is recording great successes.

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