The Senate uncovered how officials from the Nigerian Maritime Safety and Security Agency allegedly paid $5m to a law firm as professional fees to recover a $9.3bn loss of dollars.
The Senate made the shocking discovery through its Panel on Public Accounts, led by Senator Matthew Urhogbide.
The $5 million, or 5% of the agreed amount, was paid for the
intelligence-based tracking of the global movement of Nigerian hydrocarbons and loss recovery by the Federal Government of Nigeria amounting to $9.3 billion between 2013 and 2014.
Urhogbide, who expressed his dissatisfaction with the refusal of NIMASA officials to appear before the Panel, said he had no choice but to issue an arrest warrant for the director general of NIMASA, Dr. Bashir Jamoh.
According to him: “We invited NIMASA up to three times, but they did not honor our invitations.
“This committee has no choice but to issue an arrest warrant against the director general of the agency.
“They can come to the National Assembly for the allocation of funds, but when it is time to report, they will be nowhere to be found.
“The Committee had called on NIMASA up to three times for explanations of the payment of $5 million in professional fees and details of the federal government’s loss of $9.3 billion, but the agency declined the invitation.”
The auditor general’s report previewed by our correspondent revealed that all efforts by the auditor general of the Federation to see the details of the loss of 9.3 billion dollars by the federal government for a thorough examination have not been granted by NIMASA.
The request reads: “The audit observed that the agency had engaged the services of a law firm through a letter with reference number NIMASA/DG/KP/2014/001, dated 24 January 2014 for the intelligence-based tracking of the global movement of Nigerian hydrocarbons and the recovery of losses by the Federal Government of Nigeria in the amount of USD 9.3 billion between 2013 and 2014, with a cost initial of 5 million USD and 5% of all sums recovered.
“The payment instruction with reference number NIMASA/2007/DFS/WJ/5.500/VOL.11/341 dated April 2014 showed that the company received the sum of $4,523,809.52 (four million five hundred twenty three thousand eight hundred nine dollars fifty two cents only) net as professional fees from the dollar account of Zenith Bank (UK).
“The naira equivalent of this amount was 741,904,761.28 naira at an exchange rate of 164 naira to the dollar on that date.
“No proof of recovery of part or all of the sum of 9.3 billion US dollars was presented at the time of the periodic review in February 2018, despite the enormous sum of money already paid to this effect.
“It is instructive to note that the details of the transaction resulting in the loss of $9.3 billion to the federal government, which only came to the audit’s attention through review of the letter from the agency to the law firm to determine what could have happened resulting in such a huge loss were not presented for verification.
“Ordinarily, the firm should have deducted its fees from the sums recovered for the FGN, and not received advance fees in lieu of recoveries.
“The audit is concerned that payments have been made for services not rendered and that this may be a deliberate attempt to misuse public funds for personal gain.
“The Managing Director is required to justify the payment for service not rendered, failing which the sum of 741,904,761.28 naira must be recovered from the law firm and paid to the CRF, forwarding proof of payment to the commissions of the Public Accounts of the National Assembly and to the Office of the Auditor General of the Federation for verification.The sanctions set out in FR 3104 must apply.He is also required to provide details of the transaction(s) which led to the loss of 9.3 billion US dollars for an in-depth review.