In continuation of its anticorruption war, the federal government says it has recovered N57.9 billion and $666.676 million from fines on disobedient corporate organisations, looted funds, and voluntary return of illicitly acquired assets.
Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami, SAN, disclosed this on Thursday in Abuja. Malami spoke while defending the 2017 budget of the Federal Ministry of Justice before the Senate Committee on Judiciary, Human Rights and Legal Matters.
Minister of Information and Culture, Lai Mohammed, had revealed a fortnight ago that the federal government had recovered looted funds to the tune of $151 million and N8 billion from three sources through whistle-blowers.
Mohammed stated on February 12 in Lagos that the amount did not include $9.8 million cash recently recovered from a former Group Managing Director of the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation, Andrew Yakubu, also through the whistle-blower policy. Under the whistle-blower policy of the federal government, any successful whistle blower, who provides relevant information leading to the recovery of looted funds, is entitled to five per cent of the recovered money.
Malami’s media aide said, “Daily successes being recorded is responsible” for the different fund recovery figures from the information and justice ministries.
“Recoveries are on-going, day in day out, and figures keep changing by every recovery success story. We are not stagnated in recovery sense. We keep making progress by the day.”
Giving details of the latest recoveries in a statement yesterday, Malami’s special adviser on media and publicity, Mr Salihu Isah, said, “N50 billion was the fine paid by MTN telecommunications company while N7 billion and $10 million were recovered from private residences.”
The minister said N90 million was voluntarily returned, while $250 million was under interim forfeiture from proceeds of oil bunkering, $136.676 million was awaiting actual remittance, and $270 million was the federal government’s fund recovered from commercial banks.
Isah added in the statement that Malami told the senate committee that his ministry operated without a capital budget in 2016. “Our budgetary proposal of N18, 528,093,480 was not appropriated thereby compelling the ministry to operate on a zero capital budget,” he stated.
The statement quoted Malami as saying, “I am happy to state, however, that we as a ministry recorded modest achievements in the act of contributing to the revenue generation of the federal government, notwithstanding the zero capital budget.”
The budgetary allocation to the justice ministry this year is N 6,914,774,768, as against N3, 921,612,815 last year. From the N6,914,774,768, personnel cost takes the largest chunk of N4,278,824,404, legal services takes N1,000,006,899, N946,834,670 goes to overhead, while capital expenditure takes N689,108,794.
The minister pointed out that the personnel cost covered the allowances of Nigerian lawyers providing legal services within the West African sub-region and also reflected the harmonisation of the salaries of state counsels in the ministry.
“The personnel cost of N 4,278,824,404 includes the allowances for the ministry’s lawyers serving in the Gambia and reflects the harmonisation of the salaries of the state counsel in the ministry as approved by the administration of President Muhammadu Buhari in 2016, after over 20 years of agitation by state counsel in the ministry.”
Malami also said that the legal services subhead involved the core mandate of the ministry, including payment of legal fees to external solicitors engaged by the ministry. “This subhead has been allocated the sum of N1, 000,006,898, as against N843, 563,146 allocated in 2016, representing an increase of N156, 443,753,” about 18.5 per cent increase, the statement said.
The minister, however, stated that the funds allocated for legal services were still inadequate in view of the challenges that might arise from the subheads ultimately. According to him, “Given the enormous additional responsibilities on the ministry arising from the passage of the Administration of Criminal Justice Act (ACJA) 2015 as well as the increase in the quantum of other activities currently being pursued by the ministry, this amount is, unarguably, grossly inadequate and will, unfortunately, overstretch the ministry’s capacity to cope to the maximum in the light of the prevailing realities.”
He, nevertheless, expressed optimism that the N689, 108,794 allocated to the ministry this year for capital projects would boost its performance index.
“The projects, if implemented, will greatly enhance our capacity for effectiveness and improved service delivery and, undoubtedly, encourage and motivate our lawyers to give their best in the service of our dear nation,” the AGF stated.