House probes NSITF over alleged diversion of N62.3bn, failure to inaugurate board
James Emejo in Abuja
A bill for an Act to amend the Allocation of Revenue (Federation Account, Etc.) Act, 2004 to establish the Excess Revenue Fund Account, and for Related Matters yesterday passed second reading in the House of Representatives.
The House also passed a motion mandating its Committee on Labour, Employment and Productivity to conduct an investigative hearing into allegations of diversion of funds amounting to N62.3 billion by the past board of the Nigeria Social Insurance Trust Fund (NSITF).
The bill, sponsored by Hon. Lovette Ederin Idisi (PDP, Delta). seeks to amend the Allocation of Revenue (Federation Account) Act 1982 to among other things, establish the Excess Revenue Fund Account which shall consist of all revenues or other monies raised or received by the federation above the revenue targets set out for the purpose of funding the budget in a fiscal year (not being revenues or other monies payable under the constitution or any Act of the National Assembly into any other public fund of the federation established for a specific purpose).
It stipulates that no monies shall be withdrawn from the Account except to meet expenditure that is charged upon the fund monies as authorised and or prescribed by the National Assembly pursuance of Section 81 of the constitution.
Idisi added that expenditure from the proposed account shall be in accordance with Section 2 and 3 of the Principal Act; provided that the Federation Account Committee shall prescribe the manner of distributing such monies to the Consolidated Revenue Fund for the purpose of the bill and the Sovereign Wealth Fund.
Apparently, the proposed bill represented a frantic effort on the part of the lower chamber in trying to exert some indirect influence over the administration of the Excess Crude Account (ECA) which the National Assembly clearly lacks powers to appropriate on.
Hon. Femi Gbajabiamila, who had even instituted legal actions over the alleged illegality in the operation of the ECA by both the federal and state governments, however, in supporting the bill, said the House could at least, legitimise the ECA â€œsince we canâ€™t order itâ€™s closure.â€
He had repeatedly referred to the ECA as illegal.
The House Speaker, Hon. Yakubu Dogara, said it was pertinent for the ECA to have a legal backing whether its operation or management is being done rightly or otherwise- a clear reference to the fact that the ECA doesnâ€™t have constitutional backing as the National Assembly currently do not appropriate on it.
The Deputy Speaker, Hon. Yussuff Lasun, sought to know if revenue from crude alone could determine sources of accruals to the proposed account.
Meanwhile, NSITF probe will further determine the true financial position of the Fund from 2011 till date.
Furthermore, it will x-tray the circumstances which had led to the non-inauguration of the NSITF Board long after its composition and by extension, other boards constituted and not inaugurated.
The cmmittee has six weeks to conclude its investigation and report back to the House.
The resolution followed a motion sponsored under matters of urgent public importance by Hon. Prestige Ossy (APC, Abia) on the need to investigate the non-inauguration of the NSITF Board and the alleged fraudulent diversion of N62.3 billion by its past board.
He said the perpetuation of the alleged fraud and non-inauguration of the board had thrown the agency into a state of confusion, leaving it dead to its responsibilities to the public.
Ossy added that the public including several stakeholders such as the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) had called for quick intervention into the issues at stake.
Other lawmakers condemned the development and backed an immediate intervention.
They said the lower chamber owes it a duty to restore confidence in NSITF and avert the massive looting.
Hon. Uzoma Abonta (PDP, Abia) said the situation tended to create a conducive environment for corruption to thrive amid efforts to curb corruption by the present administration.
He said the executive should be reminded to urgently inaugurate the NSITF Board so as to hold it accountable for any misappropriation.