The House of Representatives on Monday began the investigations of the N1.2 trillion unclaimed funds of the Federal Government in commercial banks in the country just as the House Ad-hoc Committee on Unclaimed Funds in Nigerian Commercial Banks and the Infractions of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) was inaugurated on Monday.
Speaking while inaugurating the Ad-hoc Committee, the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Femi Gbajabiamila, who was represented by his deputy, Rep Ahmed Wase stated that the assignment was in line with the Nigerian constitution giving powers to the National Assembly to conduct investigative hearings either to improve on the loss or to expose corruption or waste.
He expressed optimism that the committee’s assignment would improve the system in terms of value addition.
According to him, “I believe from the body of the motion that about N1.2 trillion is not paid into the consolidated revenue so that we can improve the infrastructure deficit and other challenges in our nation”
On his own, the Chairman of the committee, Rep Uniyme Idem, warned that there would be sanctions for anyone who failed to cooperate with the investigation.
Idem mandated the banks to submit relevant documents that would help recover unclaimed funds in about 45 million accounts reported not to be linked to Bank Verification Number (BVN).
He pointed out that commercial banks and other agencies that were hiding the funds and not willing to show cooperation by refunding would be stopped from collecting revenue for the government.
According to him, “I think this House would not have a choice but to stop you from collecting funds on behalf of the Federal Government if you don’t show cooperation. But if you do it would be a win-win where we look at your books and then you check the one that belongs to the FG and refund it appropriately. There would not be an issue”
“This assignment is enormous, crucial and sensitive given what the country is facing economically. That is what informed the House of Representatives to mandate this all-important committee to embark on this assignment. We believe the outcome of it would help the country to recover very substantial parts of the unclaimed funds that have been hanging in some of the Nigerian commercial banks and other unauthorized hands”
“Money meant for the Federal Government is not supposed to sit with unauthorized hands for a very long time. Any money that was disbursed or meant to the Federation Account, if the contract had failed or was not executed, the proper thing was for the money to be refunded to the same source it came from. But unfortunately whether out of oversight or deliberate for whatever reason, so much money based on the recent discovery has been tied down somewhere. That is what informed the National Assembly, precisely the House to commence this investigative hearing.”
He said the banks would start appearing before the committee with their submissions from the 15th of January, 2022 and urged total cooperation from them and relevant government agencies during the investigation.
Also speaking, the Accountant General of the Federation, Ahmed Idris, said there was a good likelihood that a substantial amount of Federal Government funds might still be lying with commercial banks despite a presidential directive of 2015, and the circulars and efforts made to compel the commercial banks to comply with those directives.
Represented by the Director, Coordinator Treasury Single Account (TSA), Sylva Okorieaboh, he said, “On the 14th of December 2021, the Minister of Finance inaugurated new TSA implementation structures and she alluded to the fact that there’s a likelihood that substantial amount that federal government fund are still lying with commercial banks and directed the banks to return those funds or they will be reported to anti-corruption agencies. We believe that there are still federal government funds with commercial banks but we can’t say specifically how much and where so to that extent we welcome the efforts of this committee.”
The Minister of Finance, Budget and National Planning, Zainab Ahmed, also said over the past several years there have been circulars of government seeking to enforce this.
Represented by the Director-General, Budget Office, Ben Akabueze, the Minister said extant regulations by the CBN provides guidelines for the management of inactive accounts dormant accounts and unclaimed funds.
She said the guidelines obligate any bank to have notified the Federal Government of the existence of any such funds belonging to it.
The Minister urged the CBN to do the job of enforcing its own guidelines and assured of the commitment of the Ministry in the probe.