The quartet of Senate President, Bukola Saraki; his deputy, Ike Ekweremadu; House of Representatives Speaker, Yakubu Dogara; and his deputy, Lasun Yusuf, have been accused of financial fraud totaling N630,125,499.90. The accusation was made by an advocacy group, Citizens Action to Take Back Nigeria (CATBAN), which said the four principal officers of the National Assembly executed the fraud by pressuring and using the Federal Capital Development Authority (FCDA) to provide them with accommodation. This is in spite of the fact that the monetization policy of the Federal Government bars all agencies from using taxpayers money for to meet personal demands of public officers outside the provisions of the law.
An independent investigation it conducted, disclosed CATBAN, showed that in March 2016, the four principal officers of the National Assembly approached the management of the Federal Capital Development Authority (FCDA) to provide them with residential accommodation. This, it said, was sequel to a plan perfected by an agent acting between the National Assembly and FCDA to steal money via dubious accommodation requests.
The requests, revealed CATBAN, were approved within 48 hours and followed with fund disbursement, an indication of the desperation to quickly get the money. The four principal officers added CATBAN, then presented companies that doubled as estate agents and property owners for the exercise. The companies used were Gogetit Investment Limited, which used a Zenith Bank account to receive the money, Legendark Consult Limited, which used a Guaranty Trust Bank account to reeive its own share, and Pitch Global Services, which has an account domiciled with Heritage Bank.
Through the four companies, CATBAN said it found that the sum of N630,125,499.90 was fraudulently paid by the FCDA for phoney renting, renovation and furnishing of four properties as official residences for Messrs. Saraki, Ekweremadu, Dogara and Lasun.
Messrs. Saraki and Dogara, the group noted, presented residential properties owned by them as rented houses, while Messrs. Ekweremadu and Lasun did not present any residential property, but collected their share of the money. The Senate President, for example, presented a property acquired while he was governor of Kwara State for which he was illegally paid a total sum of N200million.
For the property, which is located at No. 48 Lake Chad Crescent in Abuja’s Maitama District, Mr. Saraki received N113,095,238.00 and N11,904,761.90 in Value Added Tax (VAT) as rent. For furnishing, he received N67,857,142.86 and VAT of N7,142,857.14. On his part, the House of Representatives Speaker presented a property built for him by a controversial property developer also known as Alhaji AA Oil. The house is located at 9 Persian Gulf Close, off Euphrates Street, Wuse 2, Abuja, the building illegally fetched Mr. Dogara N73m and VAT of N7m as rent. For furnishing, the Speaker creamed off N63m and VAT of N6m giving him an aggregate of N150m.
Deputy Senate President, Mr. Ekweremadu, who did not bother to present a property walked away with N90m and VAT of N9m a s rent, N45,084,285.72 plus VAT of N4,745,714.28 for furnishing, leaving him with a not exactly shoddy aggregate of N150m. The Deputy Speaker of the House of Representatives, like Mr. Ekweremadu, did not present a property but netted a total of N130million.
According to CATBAN’s investigation, Mr. Lasun illegally got N62m and N6,571,428.58 in VAT for rent, while pocketing N55, 190,476.18 and VAT of N5,809,523.82 for furnishing
CATBAN noted that the discoveries made during its investigation have put a huge question mark on the integrity of the National Assembly leadership and brought into sharper focus the sweeping corruption afflicting the country. CATBAN argued that the affected principal officers must be made to refund the illegally taken sums.
“Based on the above, we demand an immediate refund of our taxpayers’ money stolen by these principal officers and subsequently call on the Nigerian Police Force and all relevant security agencies to wade into the situation and ensure that justice is served. We also want to remind all senators and members of House of Representatives that they are duty bound to ensure appropriate sanctions against their colleagues, who have soiled the image of the National Assembly,” said CATBAN.
The group warned that if members of the National Assembly fail to apply appropriate action against the affected officers, it will mobilise Nigerians to protest at the National Assembly Complex to demand appropriate action. CATBAN argued that the National Assembly has all its statutory earning and allowances properly fixed and spelt out by the Revenue Mobilization Allocation and Fiscal Commission (RMAFC) Act, 2002.
The law, CATBAN added, gives the National Assembly the power and control over its own budget and expenditure, including payment of all forms of allowances. The RMAFC, observed the group, calculates the remuneration packages for political, public and judicial office holders is calculated in relation to the percentages of their basic salaries.
“For example, each Nigerian Senator receives 150% of his/her annual basic salary as accommodation allowance, while each member of our Federal House of Representatives gets the same equivalent.
“In view of this, the appropriate accommodation allowance for the Senate President is N3,720,000.00 and that of his Deputy is N3,451,500.00. In the case of the Speaker of the House of Representatives, his accommodation allowance is N3,705,000.00, while his deputy is entitled to N3,435,000.00,” noted CATBAN.
The group said it established the fact that the National Assembly has always been well taken care of in terms of receipt of allocations and allowances, which implies that all members, including the principal officers of both chambers, have been promptly receiving the statutory allocations, including for accommodation.