The House of Representatives, on Wednesday, overwhelmingly rejected the decision by the Federal Government to share the sum of $322 million, being the last tranche of the Abacha loot, to poor Nigerians.
The advice had purportedly been given to the Federal Government by the Swiss government.
The House, presided over by Speaker Yakubu Dogara, queried the powers of the Swiss government to determine how Nigeria spends its money.
It queried the powers of the presidency to embark on such agreement and spending without parliamentary approvals.
It noted that the money in question belonged to the three tiers of government and was constitutionally incorrect for the Federal Government alone to determine what happens to it.
The lower chamber held that such money ought to be paid into the consolidated revenue account and shared amongst the three tiers of government.
The House insisted that the Federal Government could only spend money after it had been appropriated by the National Assembly.
It, therefore, set up an ad-hoc committee to probe the recoveries of the Abacha loots and their utilisation since 1998.
The committee, which was given six weeks to conclude investigations and report to the House for further legislative actions, was asked to establish the sources of the Abacha loot within the said period, identify all agreements entered by the government and see if they were in line with the constitution.
The House also mandated the ad-hoc committee to establish if money was paid to lawyers in the course of recovery and establish if proper procedures were followed.
The resolutions followed the heated debate on the motion of urgent public importance brought before it by Sunday Karimi (PDP, Kogi) on the need to stop the executive from expending the last tranche of the Abacha loot or any recovered loot at all without parliamentary approval.
His motion was coming weeks after the Special Adviser to the President on Justice Reforms, Juliet Ibekaku-Nwagu, said the $322 million would be paid directly to the accounts of the poorest Nigerians, without recourse to the National Assembly.
Karimi, who referred to section 12 (1) of the 1999 construction as amended, said no treaty between the Federal Government and another country shall have the force of law except to the extent to which such a treaty had been enacted by the National Assembly.
Consequently, the lawmaker noted that no agreement or memorandum of understanding purportedly signed by the Federal Government with the Swiss government can have any force of law in Nigeria except approved by the parliament.
Based on Karimi’s argument from section 80 (1-3) and section 81 of the 1999 constitution, where he argued that the money should go to the consolidated revenue account, the House urged the Federal Government to pay the said sum into the consolidated revenue fund and be distributed to the federating units in line with the current revenue sharing formula.
Contributing to debate on the motion, majority of the lawmakers argued in favour of Karimi’s argument, saying that sharing the money as planned would mean a serious constitutional breach.
They added that it was not economically wise, and that the recovered loot should be channelled into a sustainable venture for the poor Nigerian people.
The legislators said they were concerned about how the Federal Government and the Swiss government intended to establish who the poor people in the country were, to be able to come up with a comprehensive list to share the loot.
They questioned the integrity of the decision which was taken sidelining the National Assembly, the true representatives of the Nigerian people and in the best position to generate the list of poor people in view of their closeness to the people at the grassroots.
The legislators stressed that they were not against the good intention of the government to do something to the poor, but were worried that the decision was ill-conceived as each of the said poor people would likely not go home with more than N5000, which was incapable of changing their status or feeding them beyond a few days.
They expressed doubts concerning the genuineness of the move which, they alleged, was meant to take care of only a few poor from some states of the federation.
Meanwhile, the opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) on Wednesday said it has uncovered plot by a cabal in the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) to siphon repatriated funds in the sum of $322 million under the pretext of sharing the money to indigent persons in 19 states of the federation.
The party also warned the APC-led Federal Government to perish the thought of shutting down Akure airport in a bid to deny PDP members access to Ado Ekiti for their planned governorship rally scheduled for today, ahead of the Ekiti State governorship election billed for July 14.
In a statement, PDP spokesperson, Kola Ologbondiyan, revealed that investigations have shown that out of the estimated 300,000 households listed as beneficiaries, more than 90 percent of them are phony family names supplied by fraudulent government officials, to be used as conduit to channel the repatriated money to APC leaders.
“Investigations revealed that the cabal is responsible for the stampede to spend the money without recourse to the constitutionally required approval and appropriation of the National Assembly,” Ologbondiyan said.
He added, “It is more shocking to note that President Muhammadu Buhari, who is regularly availed of information particularly on corruption, approved the dispensing of the money without the required legislative due diligence, thereby opening the vaults for looters in the APC.”
The party stressed that it had nothing against any genuine plan to benefit Nigerians in anyway, adding that it believes President Buhari is aware of the requirements of the constitution regarding the disbursement of state funds.
“We urge Nigerians to hold him (Buhari) responsible for this wicked plot by APC interests to use innocent citizens as cover to loot the repatriated fund,” he said.
The party therefore called on the National Assembly to protect the interest of Nigerians by immediately employing its legislative instruments to stop the re-looting of the repatriated funds.
While interacting with newsmen earlier, Ologbondiyan called on well-meaning Nigerians to prevail on the Federal Government not to close the Ado Ekiti airport on the pretext of carrying out repairs.
He said, “There is a dangerous trend by APC to stall the rally. Information showed that the Federal Government will shut the Akure Airport to deny our members access to Ado Ekiti.
“Also, we learnt that the Ondo State government is planning to move earth-moving equipment to the road leading from Ondo to Ado Ekiti to prevent vehicular movement of our members.
“This is in a bid to stop our members from across the country from moving either by air or by road into Ado Ekiti. This is unfortunate and callous.”
Ologbondiyan explained that PDP leadership is a step ahead of APC with alternative plans, calling on the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to be an unbiased arbiter in the governorship election and to avoid being used by the Federal Government to perpetrate fraud during the election.