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Monday, July 15, 2024

How we should spend recovered loot, by CISLAC

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The Civil Society Legislative Advocacy Centre (CISLAC) finds the recent reports of actual figures being recovered from corrupt past office holders very heart-warming. It is comforting that the fight against corruption is beginning to yield fruits translating to tangible resources that can be available for investment into critical sectors of our economy for the benefits of citizens who are the real victims of corruption.
CISLAC recalls that although this administration has reported success in the recovery of proceeds of corruption, details as to exactly how much and from whom has been quite sketchy and the availability of the funds for budgetary allocations had been doubtful in spite of them being mentioned in budget speeches.
We recall the experiences with similar recoveries in the past, such as the Abacha loot, in which the funds were not deployed in such a manner that its impact was neither felt by citizens nor was it possible to demonstrate that it was actually used for the benefit of Nigerians. This informed the famous phrase of ‘re-looting the loot’ used by many to indicate that the recovered loot were indeed also stolen by the then political establishment.
Nigerians suffered poverty, deprivation and neglect while these officials carted away the humongous sums of monies that are presently being reported stashed away in scandalous places. CISLAC therefore advocates that, in addition to ensuring that the recovered funds are transparently and accountably managed, they should be ploughed into sectors that deliver direct social services to the teeming masses in a measurable way.
We recommend that the monies be deployed to address the educational, health and water needs of our people. This should be done in a systematic, strategic, deliberate and dedicated manner. The past practice of injecting looted funds through the broad budget cycle has proved to be ineffective. The Executive should liaise with the National Assembly to ensure that special supplementary approval is obtained for the expenditure of recovered monies.
CISLAC suggests that a Specialized Service Delivery Account domiciled with the Central Bank be established into which all the recovered funds are deposited. This will be managed by an Ad-Hoc Multi-Stakeholder Management Committee made up of designated technocrats from the focal ministries and volunteers from relevant Professional Bodies, the Media, Civil Society and the Anti-corruption Agencies.
The duty of this Committee is to appraise specific project proposals from the focal ministries to ensure relevance, efficiency, maximum impact and that projects can be completed within specific time lines. They would also monitor funds disbursement from the account and report back to Nigerians. This will ensure efficiency without creating another agency that would constitute a drain pipe to already scarce resources.
We believe that this would ensure that the funds are not only applied to real and tangible people-oriented projects, but that the spending can be tracked and the impact on the lives of the people measured.
We recall that civil society was at the forefront to ensure the recovery of the Abacha loot, only for the money to be unaccounted for. In order to create confidence, ensure transparency, accountability and optimal use of the funds, it is expedient that a special mechanism be set up to judiciously make use of the money for the benefit of the Nigerian people, especially in critical areas of health, education and water, as aforementioned.
CISLAC commends the efforts of the anti-corruption agencies whose unrelenting efforts are bringing about these results. We also applaud courageous members of the judiciary whose rulings contribute to these recoveries.
We also commend the role of citizens in blowing the whistle even in the absence of a Whistle Blowers Act to protect citizens. We encourage Nigerians not to continue to agonise about corruption but to take bold steps in exposing corrupt individuals and practices in our various places of work and communities for the benefit of all citizens. In this vein, we call on the National Assembly to quickly pass the Whistle Blowers Act to enhance the fight against corruption.
We call on all stakeholders not to relent in the fight against corruption by ensuring that through the rule of law, looted funds are recovered and brought back into the national treasury and deployed to offset the social and welfare deficit of Nigerians and alleviate the sufferings which our people have been subjected to.
Auwal Musa (Rafsanjani)
Executive Director

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