Omololu Ogunmade in Abuja
The Senate Committee on Anti-corruption and Financial Crimes monday accused the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) of illegally obtaining and spending unappropriated funds from service-wide votes.
This accusation was made when the Acting Chairman of the EFCC, Ibrahim Magu, appeared before the committee to defend the 2017 budget of the commission. Magu while giving the 2016 budget performance of the commission, had disclosed that the anti-graft agency got N1.8 billion extra fund on the platform of public service wage adjustment as medical and feeding allowances.
The amount was not part of the approved N18.8 billion budget of the EFCC in 2016.
Giving a breakdown of the budget performance of the commission in 2016, Magu said of the N18.8 billion budget of the commission, N8 billion was meant for capital expenditure, N7 billion as personnel cost and N1.83 billion released as overhead cost.
He said N14.39 billion was released to the commission from the budget.
But the committee chairman, Senator Chukwuka Utazi, frowned at the commission’s decision to secure N1.8 billion that was not part of the fund appropriated for the commission in 2016, saying extra-budgetary spending amounted to illegality and abuse of service-wide votes.
He described the action as unacceptable, threatening that the committee would write the presidency that the abuse of service-wide votes would no longer be condoned by it.
Magu agreed with Utazi that the EFCC did not follow proper channels in securing the money. “You are right. Things should be done properly,” he said as Utazi also accused the EFCC of failing to prepare a comprehensive budget and consequently asked Magu and his team to re-appear before the committee another day with a more thorough budget along with details of its capital budget.
Presenting the 2017 budget of the commission, Magu said the commission had a total budget of N17.2 billion for this fiscal year, out of which N7.74 billion is meant for capital expenditure, N7.12 billion as personnel cost and N3.7 billion as overhead cost.
He said the 2017 budget represented 8.5 per cent reduction in 2016 budget of N18.8 billion.
Magu who said the commission’s activities were marred by inadequate funding in 2016, disclosed that 199 detectives were recruited by EFCC in 2016 as Utazi advised him against absorbing officials on secondment but should rather fill vacancies with recruited staff.
The committee also lamented the massive looting of government funds by both serving and retired civil servants as it tasked the EFCC to go after officials of Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) and Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) with a view to bringing looters to justice.
It also challenged the EFCC to go after other serving and retired civil servants in the ranks of directors, permanent secretaries and procurement officers.
A member of the committee, Senator Isa Misau, recalled the recent recovery of over N3 billion from a former Group Managing Director of NNPC, Mr. Andrew Yakubu, observing that the level of stealing of government funds with impunity had reached an alarming rate.
“We urge you EFCC to look into the law and come up with a proposed amendment to enable you hold those who are stealing government money in custody for a longer period. If you can steal billions of naira and then you spend only one week in EFCC custody and you go home, more people would be encouraged to loot and steal more,” he added.
The committee chairman, Utazi, added that the Senate would continuously support the EFCC in every capacity it can to enable it discharge its duties in accordance with the law.