Money… Money Everwhere, Yet Nigerians Die of Poverty

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It seems there isn’t anything that can surprise the average Nigeria again when it comes to looting and stealing of the common wealth of the people by a selected few who are suppose to the “public servants”.

The operational word here is “servant”, but I guess we are living in the times of the holy books where it say “servants riding on horses while masters walk on foot” (paraphrased), if not I don’t see how in a country where more than 70% of its population is believed to be living below the United Nations baseline poverty level would have accusations and counter accusations of unimaginable mismanagement and gross looting of public funds and yet it doesn’t even manage to get headlines anymore, mostly because it has become so common that it seems Nigerians are more shocked to hear about stories like “Man with 6 fingers” than they are to read stories of gross misappropriation and looting of public funds, it seems the average Nigerian (who wouldn’t want to develop a heart attack or suffer from chronic depression has found a tune off mechanism to help him zone off when disheartening news like this arise), do I blame them? I can’t say I do, because we live in a society where it seems criminality has been institutionalized and you can do as you will as long as the “Oga at the top” gets a share, you gain immunity from prosecution.

Yet again, we hear of a probe panel the senate set up yesterday to look into the mismanagement of over 1.04 out of the N1.5 trillion released to the special fund accounts between 2002 and June 2012.

The accounts are the Development of Natural Resources Account, Derivation and Ecology Account as well as Stabilisation Account.

While the Natural Resources Account is meant to provide financial resources for the development of alternative mineral resources from oil and gas, the Derivation and Ecology Account is meant for intervention in general ecological problems in the country. The stabilisation fund, on the other hand, is jointly owned by the three tiers of government and is meant as a stop gap measure for unforeseen contingencies, especially during economic downturns.

But a report presented by the Senate Committee on Public Accounts revealed a large diversion of the funds to other uses, including loans to foreign countries, government agencies and private organizations.

While presenting the report on Tuesday, chairman of the committee, Senator Ahmad Lawan, said of the N1.5 trillion, which accrued to the account between 2002 and June 2012, N1.04 trillion was diverted from their primary purposes to irrelevant purposes such as loans to foreign countries, companies and organizations.

Lawan further submitted that of the misappropriated sum, N580 billion was granted to different institutions as loans, of which N347 billion had not been recovered.
According to him, apart from the inability of the executive arm of government to recover N347 billion of the loans given out, the operation of the “Development of Natural Resources Account is grossly abused because several releases under this account were not related to the intendment of the account.”

Furthermore, he said a total of N329 billion was granted as a loan under the Natural Resources Account alone, out of which N200 billion was still outstanding.
He also explained that under the Derivation and Ecology Account, a total of N61 billion was granted as a loan, of which N30 billion was still outstanding.

Giving a breakdown of misapplication of the funds in each account, Lawan said the N701 billion released to Natural Resources Account was abused; N149 billion of the N329 billion released to the Derivation and Ecology Account was abused; and N191 of the N255 billion released to the Stabilisation Account was abused.

He listed the abuses under Development of Natural Resources Account to include N612 million as payment for joint venture cash call contributions deducted from the Akwa Ibom grant between March and May 2002; a N1.3 million loan granted to the Derivation Escrow Account in 2003; N50 billion loan granted to finance the deficit in the 2004 budget; N3.7 million loan granted by the federal government to Africa Development Bank for the purchase of shares; and N2 billion loan granted for payment to Gitto Construction, among many others.

Also, he listed abuses under the Derivation and Ecological Account to include a N200 million loan to the Presidential Research and Communication Unit in November 2002; N500 million loan to Edo State Government in November same year; N800 million released for resurfacing of the runway in Aminu Kano International Airport, Kano; N500 million loan to Edo State Government; and N7.4 billion loan to the Nigerian Air Force through the Ministry of Defence’s Capital Account, among countless others.

The truth is this, even as this writer puts together these figures, I find myself desensitized to implication this funds have to the future of the country. What is this country turning into? We have so much yet we live in abject poverty, we see the senate setting up another committee, i only  hope it doesn’t go the way of the others probes and committees and it dies as a probe and nothing is ever heard of it again.

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