Abuja — The Senate has uncovered how former President Goodluck Jonathan, his deputy, Namadi Sambo, Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), Nigerian Army, Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria (FAAN) and some Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs) benefitted from alleged diversion of N665.8 billion Solid Minerals Development and Stabilisation Funds through the Accountant General of the Federation (AGF).
The upper legislative chamber has, therefore, ordered the AGF to ensure that the misappropriated funds in form of loans and Special allocations were recovered and paid back to the Special Funds Accounts within 60 days.
The Senate gave the marching order to the AGF after consideration and approval of the 2015 Auditor-General's report presented at plenary by the Chairman of the Senate Committee on Public Accounts, Senator Mathew Urhoghide.
The Senate at the plenary held shortly before proceeding on its annual vacation approved the recommendation of the committee that the funds diverted between 2004 and 2015 be returned to government coffers within two months.
Two countries namely Ghana and Sao Tome and Principe also benefitted from the diverted stabilization funds to the tune of N847 million.
Breakdown of the beneficiaries showed that N1.5 billion severance allowance of former President Goodluck Jonathan and Vice President Namadi Sambo were paid from the funds on June 11, 2015, about two weeks after leaving office while the Electoral body, INEC, collected N20 billion from Development of Natural Resources Fund apart from N17.9 billion it received from Brown Rice Levy and Comprehensive Import Supervision Scheme (CISS) Pool Levy.
Another N30 billion was released by the AGF to INEC in 2014 and 2015 for the conduct of the 2015 general election with the breakdown showing that N10 billion was released on July 3, 2014, while N20 billion was released on January 12, 2015, apart from N93 billion appropriated by the National Assembly in 2015 for the conduct of the elections nationwide.
Other beneficiaries of the diverted Solid Mineral Development Funds included Ministry of Foregin Affairs: N3.6 billion, N50 billion to fund budget deficit in 2004; Ministry of Works:N2 billion; Federal Airport Authority of Nigeria: N13 billion; Ministry of Sports: N500 million; Monetization arrears due to PHCN staff: N57.5 billion; N70 billion to accelerate capital budget in 2010; loan to facilitate the funding of Capital budget in 2010: N80 billion;loan to facilitate 2013 Capital budget 4th quarter: N80.7 billion; Loan to Nigerian Electricity Regulatory Commission: N6 billion in 2014.
In addition, N15 billion was released to one Lucius Nwosu as hudgement debt of N37 billion for Genocide at Odi in Bayelsa State while N14 billion was released to Ministry of Power for Kasshibilla Hydropower Transmission Projects, among others.
The withdrawals from the Stabilisation fund also included N847 million paid to Ghana, Sao Tome and Pricipe for an unspecified purpose, the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) also collected N87 billion to commence the fresh voters registration, but paid back N21 billion and yet to balance N66.7 billion.
There was a N32 billion for the completion of 4th quarter and 3rd quarter of 2013 capital projects, N2 billion for the funding of Army operation in 2013, another N3 billion loan to INEC to speed up Electoral process in 2013, and N3.5 billion as loan to Nigerian Army for recruitment of 9,000 recruit in 2013.
As a result of the withdrawals and granting of loans as against what the funds were meant for, the Auditor-General raised a query as to the disbursements, which the Senate upheld.
The Auditor General's report in its query against depletion of Special Funds said, "Amount totaling N455 billion were withdrawn from Development of Natural Resources as loans to various beneficiaries between 2004 and 2015, contrary to the established objectives of the funds.
"The purpose of the Development of Natural Resources Fund is to provide financial resources to development alternative mineral resources Development. The Development of Natural Resources Fund belongs to the federal government.
"Also, various amounts totaling N210.3 billion were withdrawn from stabilisation fund as loans to various beneficiaries, between 2004 and 2015 contrary to the established objectives of the funds.
"The purpose of the stabilisation fund is to provide for unforseen contingencies and economic downturn and the beneficiaries are the 36 states and Federal Capital Territory (FCT). The stabilisation fund belongs to three tiers of government."
Flowing from this, the upper chamber in its consideration of the report of Senate Public Accounts Committee ordered the Accountant General of the Federation to ensure refund within 60 days.
The Senate in its resolution mandated the office of the Accountant General of the Federation to set in motion the process of the recovery of the loans and pay back to the Special Funds Accounts.
It further directed that henceforth AGF should ensure that payments from these special funds were strictly applied for the purpose they were created.
The AGF was also warned to desist forthwith from further withdrawal from the Dedicated Accounts without a resolution of the National Assembly.