Lagos lawyer, Femi Falana, SAN, has called on the Federal Government to jettison the idea of taking loan from anywhere in the world, saying the country should look inward to raise funds to grow the economy.
Specifically, he asked the Federal Government to use the political will and courage to recover over $200 billion stolen wealth withheld by some international oil companies among others rather contemplate taking a loan of $3.5 billion from the World Bank and the African Development Bank.
Falana said if government refused to accede to the request, “we shall have no alternative than to initiate legal proceedings at the Federal High Court with a view to restraining the Federal Government from further plunging the nation into external indebtedness.
The call was contained in a letter dated April 8, 2016, addressed to the Minister of Finance and titled, “Request for the collection of outstanding revenue of $200 billion withheld from the Federations Account or stolen by looters”.
In his initial letter to the minister dated February 12, 2016, the lawyer had urged the Federal Government to explore alternative sources of raising revenue to fund the 2016 budget instead of increasing the nation’s external debt of $64 billion.
He had also requested the Federal Government to embark on the recovery of the revenue of $42 billion withheld from the Federation Account from 1999-2012 by some transnational oil companies, the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation, NNPC and other agencies of the federal government, noting that the minister in his reply in a letter dated March 17, 2016 gave assurance that the issues raised in our letter were receiving the attention of the Federal Government.
“We were therefore surprised to learn that the Administration had applied to the Chinese Government for another loan of $2 billion.
“In urging the Federal Government to desist from taking the loan of $2 billion from China or any other country, we are compelled to advise the Federal Government to intensify efforts to recover the nation’s wealth which has been criminally diverted by a handful of local and foreign looters”,he said.
Falana advised government to direct the relevant agencies and the anti graft bodies to collect the stolen wealth and listed 17 areas where such funds will be collected.
According to him, “the National Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative has confirmed that from five cycles of independent audit reports of NEITI from 1999-2012, the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation, NNPC, some oil companies and certain agencies of the Federal Government had withheld $20.2 billion from the Federation Account. The indicted oil companies and agencies should be made to remit the said sum of $20.2 billion into the Federation Account.
“In 2006, the Central Bank ofNigeria apportioned $7 billion out of the nation’s external reserves to 14 Nigerian banks. In 2008, the CBN also gave a bailout of N600 billion ($4billion) to the banks”.
He recalled “on September 6, 2016 the NNPC announced that arrangements had been concluded to recover the sum of $9.6 billion in over-deducted tax benefits from joint venture partners on major capital projects and oil swap contracts. Since the NNPC is said to have recovered the said sum of $9.6 billion it should be remitted into the Federation Account”.
Falana said Mobil Producing Nigeria Unlimited since 2009 has been owing government $1.9 billion, being outstanding of the $2.5 billion charged the oil company for the renewal of its licences.
He added that, “from 1998-2014, the Federal government collected over $4 billion from the over $5 billion stolen from the vaults of the CBN by a former military ruler, the late General SaniAbacha. I have submitted a petition to the Economic and Financial Commission to investigate the alleged criminal diversion of the recovered loot by some former public officers. The governments of the United States and Switzerland have promised to repatriate $458 million and $321 million respectively recovered from the loot.
”In 1999, the Abdulsalami Abubakar military junta enacted the DEEP Offshore Inland Sharing Contract Decree to give effect to certain fiscal incentives for the oil and gas companies operating in the Deep Offshore and Inland Basin under production sharing contracts. Thus, by virtue of section 5 of the Act, the payment of royalty in respect of the Deep offshore production sharing contracts shall range from 4 to 12 per cent while no royalty shall be paid whatsoever in areas in excess of 1000 metres depth! Since the 15-year period off or non-payment of royalties expired in June 2014, they should collect arrears of royalties running to hundreds of million of dollars owed by the oil and gas companies operating in the area”.
Other areas include “the$470 million contract awarded to ZTE, (a Chinese company) in 2009 by the federal government for the construction of CCTV cameras in Abuja and Lagos, which has been abandoned. Hence, the cameras which were installed did not capture the criminals who recently launched bomb attacks in Abuja and killed scores of citizens. Since the contract was not executed the federal government should recover the contract sum of $470 million”, Falana said.
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