By James Emejo in Abuja
The Speaker of the House of Representatives, Hon. Yakubu Dogara, has expressed displeasure over allegations of misapplication of over N320 billion Natural Resources Fund (NRF).
The N350 billion Fund, floated to boost sources of non oil revenue, was said to have been abused by its handlers who utilise it to advance loans to the federal government, states, MDAs and private firms for matters unrelated to natural resources.
Speaking at an investigative hearing of the House Ad hoc Committee on the utilisation of N350 billion Natural Resources Fund, the Speaker said: “Available records show that over N320 billion of the Natural Resources Funds was utilised as loans to the Federal Government of Nigeria, states, MDAs and in some cases, private firms most times for matters unrelated to natural resources.
“This practice is unacceptable and must be corrected, I charge this Ad Hoc Committee to use all available legislative powers to recover the funds that are utilised illegally.”
He said: “In addition, the committee in line with the resolution of the House should come up with recommendations to safeguard further misappropriation of Natural Resources Funds and also recommend an appropriate legal framework.”
He said though there is a weak legislative framework on the administration of the NRF, the Executive Order which is the bedrock of the Natural Resources Fund composed by Revenue Mobilisation, Allocation and Fiscal Commission for the establishment of Natural Resources Fund centred on the diversification of the economy by developing sources of revenue other than oil and gas.
He pointed out that the account, hitherto known as the Development of Natural Resources Account, was set up through an executive order in 2002 to develop alternative mineral resources to lessen the nation’s dependence on petroleum.
According to him, “The then-President Obasanjo issued an executive order to make the revenue sharing formula conform with the Supreme Court ruling of 2002.
“It was dedicated to the development of natural resources to promote economic diversification, enhance employment and income generation, and improve the socio-economic living conditions of Nigerians for sustainable national development.”
Dogara said the essence of the ad hoc committee was to ensure the utilisation of the Fund is strictly in accordance with the declared objective.
He added that the lower chamber will not condone any diversion or abuse in whatever guise of the NRF to areas that are outside its core mandate.