By Nike Sanda
Human rights lawyer, Femi Falana, has challenged the Nigerian government to take the rejection of the $30 billon (N9.61 trillion) loan request by the Senate as a challenge to review the recovery of the nation’s looted wealth.
In a statement on Tuesday, Mr. Falana said the decision of the Senate to turn down the borrowing plan should spur investigation into the criminal diversion of billions of dollars from the Federation Account.
The Senate on Tuesday rejected Mr. Buhari’s request to borrow $29.9 billion as part of its external borrowing plan for 2016 to 2018, asking for all relevant documents to be submitted.
“A few months ago, I had urged the Minister of Finance to embark on an aggressive recovery policy,” said Mr. Falana, a Senior Advocate of Nigeria.
“Apart from acknowledging the letter and assuring me that the letter was receiving attention no measure has been put in place to recover the looted wealth of the nation.
“In frustration I was compelled to submit a petition to the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission to recover the fund and prosecute the indicted individuals and corporate organisations.”
Mr. Falana said his petition led to a former Central Bank governor demanding an apology for saying that he gave out a loan of $7 billion to 14 banks sometime in 2006.
“Since he admitted that the money was a ‘deposit’ and not a loan I rejected his demand for apology,” he said.
“More so that the $7 billion and the bailout of $4 billion given to the same banks in 2008 have not been refunded.
“Curiously, the Asset Management Corporation of Nigeria has not demanded the repayment of the said sum of $11 billion from the banks.”
The Senate’s rejection came despite the support of Nigeria’s Debt Management Office for an approval of the loan to help address the huge infrastructure deficit across the country.
But Mr. Falana insisted that if efforts were intensified to recover the billions of dollars looted or diverted from the Federation Account, the government would not need to plunge the nation into “another toxic debt”.
“I have also just confirmed that one of telecommunication companies operating in the country recently engaged in money laundering and successfully but illegally transferred the sum of over $25 billion out of Nigeria,” Mr. Falana said.
“Since the Money Laundering Act, 2011, as amended, requires that the entire proceeds of the crime be forfeited to the Federal Government, it is hoped that the highly placed public individuals involved in the criminal enterprise will not compromise the interests of the nation this time around.”