Saturday, May 2, 2015

Corruption: Buhari to revisit past probe panel reports – Those indicted to refund public funds

The incoming administration of the President-elect, Maj.-Gen. Muhammadu Buhari (retd.), is set to revisit the reports of panels set up by the National Assembly to investigate various financial scandals in Federal Government’s agencies and ministries.

Saturday PUNCH gathered in Abuja, on Friday, that top among reports that the administration would examine include the fuel subsidy and N255m bulletproof cars scam probes by the House of Representatives as well as the pension scandal investigation by the Senate.

It was gathered that Buhari’s pronouncement that he would take another look at the missing $20bn was a precursor to the administration’s desire to retrieve illegally held public funds.

A former Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria, now Emir of Kano, Mohammed Sanusi II, had alleged that the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation did not account for $20bn due to be remitted to the Federation Account.

A competent source close to Buhari, who pleaded for anonymity because he was not authorised to speak to the media, said the general knew that he had limited time within which to turn around the nation, as such, he had no intention of wasting public funds on endless probes.

This, it was gathered, informed a tentative decision by the incoming administration, not to embark on fresh probes, but review reports and recommendations of “compelling” cases handled by the National Assembly.

Also, a top member of the All Progressives Congress, who confided in Saturday PUNCH, said, with the current fuel scarcity, it had become necessary for the administration to examine the fuel subsidy regime.

The APC chieftain said that the administration would find the report of the House of Representatives’ investigation into fuel subsidy in 2012 useful.

He said, “For now, we have decided not to comment on the issues of probes so as not to heat up the transition, but what I can tell you is that we will not encourage the culture of impunity.

“With the fuel scarcity in many parts of the country, the report of the House of Representatives investigation will be among those to be examined. We suspect that there is massive fraud in the fuel subsidy.”

According to him, the incoming administration will not dissipate energy embarking on fresh probes.

He explained that the administration would look at ways of implementing recommendations of panels set up by the National Assembly.

The APC top member stated, “If you recall, during the campaigns, any time he (Buhari) accused the outgoing administration of corrupt tendencies, he made reference to recommendations contained in reports which he said, the Jonathan administration, has shown a lack of political will to implement.

“What you are likely to see happening is a revisit of investigations into scandals such as the missing $20bn, the pension funds and the fuel subsidy. Where reports recommend that individuals refund public funds, these funds must be refunded.

“Where they recommend that individuals or institutions be prosecuted, that will be done.

“The anti-graft agencies will be repositioned to perform the functions for which they were established. It is certainly not going to be business as usual.”

The insider also referred Saturday PUNCH to what the President-elect said about his approach to fighting the scourge of corruption, during his presentation at Chatham House, London, shortly before the elections.

Buhari had during the lecture said, “On corruption, there will be no confusion as to where I stand. Corruption will have no place and the corrupt people will not be appointed into my administration.

“First and foremost, we will plug the holes in the budgetary process. Revenue producing entities such as NNPC and Customs and Excise will have one set of books only.

“Their revenues will be publicly disclosed and regularly audited. The institutions of state dedicated to fighting corruption will be given independence and prosecutorial authority without political interference.”

When contacted, the Director of Media and Publicity of the All Progressives Congress Presidential Campaign Council, Mallam Garba Shehu, said, he was not in a position to comment on policy issues.

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