National Assembly probes alleged $29b fraud cases
• Senators fault approach to anti-graft campaign
• Say it is discouraging local, foreign investors
The National Assembly is set to probe two alleged fraud cases involving $29 billion.
While the Senate yesterday resolved to investigate an alleged fraudulent movement of $12 billion from Nigeria by some key government officials in collaboration with a telecommunications outfit, the House of Representatives is probing over $17 billion allegedly stolen from undeclared crude oil and liquidity natural gas exports to global destinations.
The upper chamber gave approval to Senator Dino Melaye (APC, Kogi West) to put together a substantive motion and present it to the Senate for a more comprehensive debate on Tuesday as a step to conducting an investigation into the allegation.
Citing order 42 of Senate Standing Rule, Melaye had upon the commencement of legislative sitting yesterday, informed his colleagues that high-level corruption was committed by a particular telecommunications firm in connivance with some officials of government, including a serving minister.
When he was granted an opportunity to provide the synopsis of the motion he wanted to move, Melaye said: “I seek the indulgence of this house to move that after this short presentation, this matter be allowed to be taken on the next legislative day. My respected colleagues, MTN Nigeria paid $284.9 million dollars on the 6th of February, 2001 to purchase their license of operations in this country.
“I want to say with facts which by the grace of God I will make available on the next legislative day if this motion is allowed for all senators to see evidence that between 2006 and 2016 through four Nigerian banks and indeed a serving minister and some other fraudulent Nigerians, MTN has moved over $12 billion out of Nigeria and that is about half of our external reserves. If I get the nod of the Senate, I will want to bring a substantive motion on Tuesday the next legislative day with substantiated facts to buttress this position.”
When the matter was put to question by Senate President, Abubakar Bukola Saraki, the lawmakers unanimously agreed that the motion be presented on Tuesday.
The decision of the House of Representatives to probe the allegedly stolen $17 billion followed the adoption of a motion under matters of urgent national importance initiated by Agbonayinman Johnson Ehiozwa (Egor Ikpoba/Okha: PDP, Edo) at the plenary session with Speaker Yakubu Dogara presiding.
The lawmaker claimed the deal involved 20 companies, two agencies of government, two law firms and the consultant appointed by the immediate past President Goodluck Jonathan-led administration.
He said his motion was premised on the findings of Molecular Power System (Nigeria) Limited which probed the issue at the behest of Jonathan.
He claimed that it was discovered that from the period 2011 to December 2014 there were undeclared 57,830,000 barrels of Nigeria crude oil . Some of these barrels worth over $12 billion were exported to the United States, others worth over $3 billion went to China and the others worth $839,522,600 went to Norway.
Meanwhile, senators have urged President Muhammadu Buhari to balance the anti-graft war with the need to facilitate free flow of investments and businesses into the country.
Many of the lawmakers said the strategy of simply clamping people into detention without prior proper investigation, ignoring orders of court as well as adopting unorthodox tactics in the fight against corruption have seriously terrified and scared investors away.
Others also condemned what they called policy inconsistency which they said discouraged serious and genuine businesses.
In his contribution to the debate, Senator Ben Bruce (PDP, Bayelsa East) declared: “Buhari’s approach to anti-corruption war is wrong. Let us forget the foreign investors, what about the local investors? Nobody is investing anything anymore because nobody is buying anything, everybody is terrified to spend money. If people are afraid, they will not invest, fear will not be a policy to grow the economy.”
He continued: “Money is a coward; it only goes to places where there is peace and tranquility. We cannot be afraid to be Nigerians, we cannot be afraid to live in our country.
Obasanjo fought corruption and got some money back but nobody was terrified. I support Buhari’s policy, but let us change the approach, if we do not want to invest in our country, foreigners will not invest in our country.”
Senator Sunny Ugoji (Ebonyi South), was of the notion that government got things wrong when it portrayed Nigerians as thieves to the international community, a development which he noted discouraged investors from coming into the country to do business.
“If we do not cure the systemic corruption, we would not go anywhere but we should not be portrayed as thieves. Corruption is not peculiar to Nigeria, infact it was imported into Nigeria: there is corruption everywhere in the world, they only manage their corruption,” he said.