The Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project has urged President Muhammadu Buhari (retd.) to “use his good offices to direct the Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Mr Abubakar Malami, SAN, and appropriate anti-corruption agencies to investigate allegations that over N3 billion in public funds have gone missing, mismanaged, or been diverted from the Federal Ministry of Finance.”

The allegations, according to the organization, are documented in the Auditor-General of the Federation’s annual audited reports for 2018 and 2019.

“Anyone suspected of being responsible should face appropriate prosecution if there is sufficient admissible evidence, and any missing public funds should be fully recovered,” according to SERAP.

“The reports suggest a grave violation of the public trust,” the organization wrote in a letter dated December 24, 2021, and signed by SERAP deputy director Kolawole Oluwadare. The Ministry of Finance, as trustee of public funds, should ensure strict adherence to transparency and accountability rules and regulations.”

“As a key government agency, the Ministry has a sacred duty to ensure transparency and accountability in the spending of the country’s resources,” according to SERAP. This entails providing strong leadership in the fight against corruption in the public sector.”

“This leadership is critical for the Ministry to gain public trust and confidence, which is necessary for its effectiveness and impact.”

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“The allegations of N3,143,718,976.47 in missing public funds will clearly amount to a fundamental breach of national anticorruption laws and the country’s international anticorruption obligations, including under the UN Convention against Corruption, to which Nigeria is a state party,” SERAP said.

“Investigating and prosecuting the allegations, as well as recovering any missing public funds,” the letter said, “would improve the chances of your government’s oft-repeated commitment to fight corruption and end the impunity of perpetrators succeeding.” It will also benefit the general public.”

“According to the Auditor-2018 General’s report, the Ministry of Finance spent N24,708,090.00 on pre-retirement training but did not provide any documentation.” The hired consultant also failed to quote a price for the training, but the Ministry paid the consultant N5,670,060.00. The consultant’s request for payment was dated January 20, 2017, but the first payment voucher in his favor was dated January 13, 2017 (7 days before his request).”

“The Ministry is also said to have failed to account for N2,885,772,493.27 released from the Service Wide Vote to cover estacodes and other allowances for representing the Federal Government in meetings, as well as contribution to the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC).”

“The funds were spent without prior approval or documentation. The money may have been mismanaged, according to the Auditor-General.”

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“The Ministry also allegedly awarded a contract for N98,540,500.00 on May 17, 2017 without any documentation, in violation of the Public Procurement Act.” The project was not included in the budget. There was no evidence that the contract had been fulfilled. The Ministry deducted N9,354,809.52 as WHT and VAT, but no proof of remittance was provided. The money must be recovered, according to the Auditor-General.”

“The Ministry also allegedly spent N98,759,299.20 without any documentation between January and December 2017, in violation of Financial Regulation 601.”

“The Ministry paid N20,466,744.00 in cash advances to staff of ‘You-Win’ between 8 February and 18 December 2018, according to the 2019 Auditor-report, General’s but the Ministry has failed to retire the money.”

“The advances were given to cover the cost of purchasing store items, repairs, and other services that would have been provided if the contract had been awarded.” If these jobs had been completed through contract award, the government would have lost N2,046,674.40 in taxes. The money must be recovered, according to the Auditor-General.”

“The Ministry also allegedly paid N15,471,850.00 to two consultants for capacity building in Kano and Adamawa States, but without any supporting documentation, in violation of Financial Regulations paragraph 603 (1).” The Auditor-General is concerned that the funds were misappropriated and wants them returned.”

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“The consequences of corruption are felt by citizens on a daily basis, according to SERAP. Corruption increases their costs and stymies the country’s economic development, trapping the majority of Nigerians in poverty and robbing them of job opportunities.”

“We would appreciate it if the suggested actions were taken within 14 days of receiving and/or publishing this letter. If we haven’t heard from you by then, SERAP will pursue all legal options available to compel your government to comply with our request in the public interest.”

Mr Malami, Professor Bolaji Owasanoye, Chairman of the Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Commission (ICPC); Mr Abdulrasheed Bawa, Chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC); Mrs Zainab Ahmed, Minister of Finance, Budget and National Planning; and chairmen of the National Public Accounts Committees were all copied on the letter.

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