The House of Representatives on Wednesday, overwhelmingly rejected the decision by the Federal government, to acede to the purported demand by Swiss Government, to share to poor Nigerians, the sum of $322 million, being the last tranche of the Abacha loot.
The House presided over by Speaker Yakubu Dogara, queried the powers of the Swiss government to determine how Nigeria spends its money, querying also the powers of the Presidency to embark on such agreement and spending, without parliamentary approvals.
It noted that the money in question belonged to the three tiers of government and was constitutionally incorrect for the federal government alone to determine what happens to it.
The lower chamber held that such money ought to be paid into the consolidated revenue account and shared among the three tiers of government, insisting further, that the federal government could only spend money after it has been appropriated by the National Assembly.
The House therefore, set up an adhoc committee to probe the recoveries of the Abacha loots and their utilization since 1998 till date.
The committee, which was given six weeks to conclude investigation and report to the House for further legislative actions, was asked to establish the sources of the Abacha within the said period, identity all agreements entered by government and see if they were in line with the constitution.
The House also mandated the adhoc committee to establish if money were paid to lawyers in the course of recovery
and establish if proper procedures were followed.
The resolutions followed the heated debate on the motion of urgent public importance brought before it by Sunday Karimi (PDP Kogi), on the urgent need to stop the Federal Executive from expending the last tranche of the Abacha loot or any recovered loot at all without parliamentary approval.
His motion is coming weeks after the Special Adviser to the President on Justice Reforms, Juliet Ibekaku-Nwagu said the three hundred and twenty two million dollars will be paid directly to the Accounts of the poorest Nigerians, without recourse to the National Assembly.
Karimi, who referred to Section 12 (1) of the 1999 construction as amended said, no treaty between the Federal Government of Nigeria and other country shall have the force of law except to the extent to which such treaty has been enacted by the National Assembly.
Consequently, the lawmaker noted that no agreement or memorandum of understanding purportedly signed by the Federal government with the Swiss government can have any force of law in Nigeria except approved by the parliament.
Based on Karimi’s argument from Section 80 (1-3) and Section 81 of the 1999 constitution, where he argued that the money should go to consolidated revenue account, the House urged the federal government to pay the said sum into the Consolidated Revenue Fund and be distributed to the federating Units in line with the Current Revenue Sharing formula.
Contributing to debates on the motion, majority of the lawmakers argued in favour saying that sharing the money as planned would mean a serious constitutional breach, adding that it was not economically wise, as the recovered loot should be channeled into sustainable venture for the poor Nigerian people.
The legislators said that they were concerned about how the federal government and the Swiss government, intended to establish who the poor people in the country were, to be able to come up with a comprehensive list to share the loot.
They questioned the integrity of the decision which was taken sidelining the National Assembly, who were the true representatives of the Nigerian people and were in the best position to generate such list of poor people, in view of their closeness to the people at the grassroot.
The legislators stressed that they were not against the good intention of government to do something to the poor, but were worried that the decision was I’ll conceived as each of the said poor people would likely not go home with more than N5000, which was incapable of changing their status or feeding them beyond days.
They doubted the genuity of the move, which they alleged was meant to take care of only a few poor from certain 19 states of the federation.