Reps panel queries accountant-general over ‘N19bn withdrawal’ from EFCC account
Accountant General of the federation (AGF) has been queried by a house of representatives committee over an alleged illegal withdrawal of N19 billion from the recovery account of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC).
Recall that the ad hoc committee investigating the recovered loot had on Tuesday given the accountant general 48 hours to account for €5 million recovered funds said to be missing.
At its sitting on Thursday, the committee also queried Zainab Ahmed, minister of finance, for spending from the recovered loot account of government agencies.
The finance minister, however, said a procedure was followed.
“We do have provisions in the budget that allows us to make use of funds from the recovered funds. But the right procedure would be to move the funds from the final assets recovery accounts to the consolidated revenue,” she said.
The lawmakers then tackled Idris for not moving the funds to the consolidated revenue account before withdrawal, which they said was illegal and amounted to “violation of financial regulation”.
Wole Oke, member of the committee from Osun, citing a document from the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), questioned the withdrawal of N19 billion by the accountant-general in 2020 from the recovery account of EFCC.
“From the EFCC account, you took N19 billion. You took a whole N19 billion from EFCC account. N19 whole billion is not remitted here. I am sure the accountant-general is familiar with this money. On what basis did you withdraw or transfer?” the lawmaker queried.
But Idris denied illegally withdrawing the money, saying the recovery account of the EFCC belongs to the federal government.
“It is EFCC recovery account like I said. It is not account of EFCC; it is EFCC recovery account,” he said.
The lawmaker, however, insisted on an explanation for why the money was not transfered to the consolidated revenue accounts for it to be approved by the national assembly.
“I am just saying that since it is not from consolidated revenue fund. The name is very clear. It is EFCC recovery account and we are not even sure if it is final of interim forfeiture account. But you took N19 billion out of that account. So, I expect you to back that withdrawal with the law, with the act of parliament,” Oke said.
Idris, however, maintained that there was a presidential approval for the transfer of the funds.
“There is due approval of the process and the office of the accountant-general of the federation. There is always presidential approval,” he said.
Adejoro Adeogun, chairman of the committee, asked if the presidential directive supercedes the constitution, to which the accountant-general replied: “The constitution is always supreme.”
Making a reference to other documents, Oke said there are several payments made from the office of the accountant-general that were not appropriated for.
“There are a series of payments made out of this recovery account and we crosschecked the appropriation act. We can’t see where we made provisions for those withdrawals and that is our worry,” he said.
Sada Solid, member of the committee from Katsina, queried another withdrawal, and demanded details of the transaction.
“N20 billion was borrowed from the federal government asset recovery account and it was released to the ministry of defence, and one year later, 14th May, 2018, same N20 billion was transfered to capital development fund as refund for the same purpose. Can you kindly explain the amount?” the lawmaker asked.
The accountant-general, however, responded, saying “if anything is paid by the treasury, we are only doing our job as a treasury.”
Adeogun, however, maintained that further explanations on the withdrawals were expected.
“This transaction and, of course, the transaction involved in the N19 billion to the African Development Bank which we haven’t seen any evidence that we appropriated for it is are hereby queried,” he added.
The panel also raised the alarm over discrepancies in the recovery accounts for looted asset.
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