BY Samuel Akpan
The house of representatives has commenced an investigation into “unclaimed and unremitted funds” said to be in various accounts in commercial banks in Nigeria.
The ad hoc committee on unclaimed funds in Nigerian commercial banks and infractions by the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), which was inaugurated on Monday, is specifically probing several accounts allegedly holding about N1.2 trillion.
The committee was set up in January 2022, following the adoption of a motion sponsored by Dachung Bagos, a Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) lawmaker from Plateau state.
Speaking during the inauguration of the committee, Femi Gbajabiamila, speaker of the house, said the legislators are empowered by the constitution to conduct investigations to expose corruption or waste.
Gbajabiamila who was represented by Idris Wase, deputy speaker, said the investigation will add value to the government’s revenue.
“From the body of the motion, about N1.2 trillion has not been paid into the consolidated revenue,” he said.
“It will be interesting to have these monies into the funds of the federation, so that we can improve the infrastructural deficit and other challenges in our nation. I believe it is important; if it is true, it means then we have a lot to do.
“Firstly, to expose the corruption aspect of it. Secondly, to come out with interventions that would improve and mitigate the situation.”
Unyime Idem, chairman of the committee, said the investigation will help to recover funds and boost revenue for the federal government.
“This exercise we are embarking upon has become compellingly imperative as our budget deficit in Nigeria continues to grow viz-a-viz the gross domestic product (GDP) in recent years. It has exceeded the 3 percent benchmark in the last three years. The highest was in 2021 at 3.67 percent, while that of 2020 was 3.03 percent,” he said.
“These deficits are being financed by domestic and foreign loans, which are no longer sustainable as the debts are mounting in the face of our dwindling resources, and on the other hand, our nation is faced with multi-faceted challenges ranging from insecurity, high rate of unemployment and hyper-inflation, to mention just a few.
“For the information to all the stakeholders, the core objective of this committee’s assignment is to recover any hanging funds that are currently in the hands of unauthorised persons/individuals and corporate bodies.
“The work of the committee would focus on the following, among others: Identification of the critical stakeholders in the issue of unclaimed funds in Nigerian commercial banks and the infractions by the Central Bank of Nigeria; the specific roles of the Central Bank of Nigeria, the commercial banks and the ministries, departments and agencies (MDAs) of the federal government on the issue of unclaimed funds.”
He added that the committee will also look into “the level of compliance with the Treasury Single Account (TSA) policy by the MDAs since its commencement in December 2015”, and conduct a “review of long ououtstanding advance payment guarantees (APGs) issued on federal government projects, and monies held because of failed and unexecuted contracts, etc.”.
The committee is also expected to conduct an “evaluation of the level of compliance with the operation of the Bank Verification Number (BVN) regime by the Nigerian commercial banks under the supervision of the CBN and other stakeholders such as the Nigeria Inter-Bank Settlement System (NIBSS)”.
Also, there will be a “review of CBN intervention funds/scheme from the year 2000 to 2021 in order to evaluate its impact and also conduct an assessment of its operations and most importantly, to recover all identified hanging funds in the custody of unauthorised persons and corporate bodies to the coffers of the federal government”.
Nathaniel Akwashiki, a representative of the CBN, said the apex bank will provide the committee with everything necessary to “ensure that its job is done”.
Ben Akabueze, director-general of the budget office, who represented the Zainab Ahmed, minister of finance, said the ministry will cooperate with the committee to ensure that the funds are recovered.