House to Probe Bailout Funds to States

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Wants accountability, transparency in use of security funds

Passes N241bn FCT budget Damilola Oyedele in Abuja
The House of Representatives on Tuesday resolved to set up an ad hoc committee to investigate the terms and conditions for the disbursement and utilisation of the N689 billion bailout funds to 27 states, to enable them meet their financial obligations particularly to workers.

The House said this was necessary to determine the level compliance and to ascertain the necessity for further disbursement as being considered by the federal government.

The resolution was sequel to a motion of urgent public importance sponsored by Hon. Karimi Sunday (Kogi APC) who recalled that the sum of N20 billion was released as bailout to his home state four months ago.

He expressed worry at the report by the Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Commission (ICPC) which indicted several states on the utilisation of the funds, adding that the good intention of the federal government has been frustrated.

Karimi lamented that several states owe their workers between two and seven months salaries, despite the funds received, including owing retirement benefits and gratuities of their civil servants.

“Many states were reported to have stocked the funds meant for staff salaries in interest bearing accounts, while employees  continue to wallow in hunger, poverty and lack. Some of these workers have even lost their lives because of inability to meet their daily needs,” he added.

Several members, in their submission, raised the issue of the legality of the bailout funds without appropriation by the National Assembly.
Speaker Yakubu Dogara, cited Section 80 (2) of the 1999 Constitution on usage of funds from the Consolidated Revenue Fund, which must be through an Appropriation Act.
The Majority Leader, Hon. Femi Gbajabimila supported the argument, but noted that the good intention to bailout states which seemed in desperate needs of funds, may have made the National Assembly drop the ball on the matter.

“When you do not pay salaries, you do not stimulate the economy,” he said and also cited the ICPC reports stating that some states diverted the funds.
The Minority Leader, Hon. Leo Ogor, said there is a need to determine if there was any abuse in the process of disbursement, and if the Ministry of Finance followed due process.

Ogor acknowledged that while the bailout funds were disbursed without appropriation but with good intentions, the constitution must be respected.
In another development, the House also called on various heads of the executive arm of government to ensure that security funds are properly utilised to secure the country.

It also called on President Muhammadu Buhari to urgently come up with a lasting solution to address the problem of insecurity in the country, thereby forestalling further loss of lives and destruction of property.

Hon. Kingsley Chinda (Rivers APC) in a motion, expressed concern at the security challenges which the country has been battling with in recent times, particularly the invasion of communities by herdsmen, and the continued assault on Nigerians by Boko Haram.

“There is an annual budgetary allocation set out as security funds for governors of the states of the federation who have the responsibility to ensure that such funds are judiciously utilized in carrying out security operations, including purchase of security gadgets, equipment, additional upkeep and maintenance of police and military personnel to secure the country,” he said.

Chinda added that an apparent lack of accountability and transparency in the disbursement and use of security funds have adversely affected proper security operations and have had unfavourable effects on the psyche and morale of the security agencies and have further endangered the lives of Nigerians.

Meanwhile the lawmakers passed the N241 billion appropriation bill for the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) for the year 2016.
This includes the sum of 34,388,260,823 for overhead costs and  154,084,744,288 for capital projects.