By Ehi Ekhator
The Nigeria Senate has yesterday ordered its Committee on Fianance to start a full investigation into the missing $49.8 billion from the Federal Government Account.
The committee was given less than seven days to conclude its findings and report back to senate.
This followed a point of order raised under matter of urgent importance by Senator Olubunmi Adetunbi, APC Ekiti North, who relied on the Senate Order 42, not only to draw the attention of the upper legislative chamber to the allegation but also requested that it carried out an in-depth probe of the missing fund.
The money is said to be the value of crude oil export and proceeds from the Nigeria National Petroleum Corporation, NNPC, expected to be lodged in the Central Bank of Nigeria, CBN.
The Vice Chairman, Senate Committee on Planning and Budgeting, Senator Adetunji said in his plenary that there has been a raging debate on the issue of missing money from the coffers of the Federal Government of Nigeria.
He added “Today, all papers carried the report on $49.8 billion that has not been remitted to the federation account.”
CBN’s letter on the account
He further explained that the nation’s apex bank, the Central Bank of Nigeria, CBN, had written on the account from January 2012 to July 2013, urging the Senate to carry out a holistic investigation on the matter.
“Mr President, as a parliament, this is a very grave issue. The parliament owes a duty or responsibility to the public to ensure that we get to the bottom of this issue for purposes of public information and for purposes of integrity of this parliament, because appropriation and revenue is the major responsibility of this parliament,” he said.
Senate President, David Mark, who presided over the session where the issue came up, said the matter could not be instantly treated because, according to him, there is no detailed information before the Senate yet.
Besides, he said the allegation which Senator Adetunbi was relying on was a newspaper report, adding that he had earlier in a meeting with the senator on the issue, promised that the Senate Committee on Finance would handle the matter.
“You have come under Order 42, you know what you showed to me was the newspaper report and I also told you that on the basis of that, since you don’t have all the details, that I will refer it to the committee and the committee will get all the details and bring their report here.
“You know that was my discussion with you. So, this new dimension of a letter coming from Central Bank was not discussed with me. But whatever it is, I think rather that because we don’t have the details at this point, we cannot go into any further detailed discussion.
“So, I will refer it to the committee on finance. I am just saying what you have discussed with me and that is what I am going to do, because the newspaper is what you brought to me, so you will lay the newspaper on the table and then I will refer the matter to the committee. I want the details, “he said.
Senate President’s position
The Senate President’s position that the issue be handled by the Committee on Finance attracted resistance from some members of the All Progressives Congress, APC, who suggested that rather than the committee, the issue should be directed to the Senate Committee on Public Account but Mark stood his ground.