The House of Representatives on Thursday raised an alarm over the huge amount of money lost annually by Nigeria to financial leakages.
A member of the lower chamber of the National Assembly, Mr James Faleke, in a motion moved today and seconded by Mr Rurum Nasir, said about $30 billion is lost through fictitious and misappropriated means.
According to him, some highly influential persons and companies engage in foreign exchange racketeering by obtaining forex at cheap rates from the government through the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) for businesses in the country at less than N310/$1, but abandon what they got the FX for to resell at higher rates like N360/$1.
He said this was a sabotage to the economy especially at a time when the nation still grapples with funds to carry out capital projects, especially when considering how various revenue-generating, levying and taxing agencies fall short of their annual financial targets.
Mr Faleke, therefore, called on the House Committee on Finance, as well as that on Banking and Currency to conduct public hearings to unravel these misappropriations and other such schemes and make a formal report that would advise the House on the appropriate course of sanctioning to those found culpable, to serve as a deterrent for those who would intend to continue doing this.
In his contribution, Mr Toby Okechukwu stated that the motion addresses critical loopholes and infractions aimed at defrauding Nigeria. He called for a more holistic investigation to find out if there is collusion by insiders who should be protecting the national financial interest.
Mr Okechukwu stated that Nigeria cannot afford to lose such amount annually and all measures to block such financial leakages should be employed.
On his part, Mr Mohammed Tahir Monguno stated that the motion was in tandem with the constitutional role of legislators to expose corruption and investigate all financial infractions. He stated that if these leakages are blocked, the nation can capture more capital projects in the budget.
Another contributor to the debate, Mr Henry Nwawuba, stated that the motion was investigative and the window for such corruption has been permitted by certain factors such as a non-stringent means of acquiring foreign exchange and slack oversight
He called for a robust public hearing to shed more light on the matter to expose and sanction those directly involved, while Mr Alhassan Ado-Doguwa stated that it was sad when Nigeria was making financial sacrifices and was even contemplating dropping its benchmark and propose a downward review of the budget expectations due to lack of funds; that some unpatriotic elements would exploit well-intended schemes of government to ensure ease of doing business to short-change the nation.
He also called for thorough investigations during the public hearing and for the highest sanctions to be applied on those found culpable.
The lawmaker called for the enforcement of the sanctions that will come from the hearing and ensure the outcome serves as a deterrent for all in such practices.
Also, Mr Leke Abejide stated that the motion speaks to a critical area of financial rascality that has been going on for long in defrauding Nigeria. This, he stated, is just one of the forms it takes, noting that such sharp practices also exist in the importing and exporting sector and has been ongoing for years, calling for a wholistic investigation into all such financial rascality.
Speaker of the House of Representative, Mr Femi Gbajabiamila, stated that the motion was highly critical, especially as world revenue is expected to further decline due to the coronavirus, noting that all financial leakages must be blocked.
According to him, there are two types of leakages; one is the negligence-based leakages, and the more grievous one is the calculated one, where there is the intention to defraud, which he said the House frowns heavily upon.
However, Mr Gbajabiamila clarified that it should be an investigative hearing and not a public hearing as the prayer of the motion called for.
This resulted in the motion being amended to make the hearing investigative and not just public. It was then voted on and adopted as amended