Senate Probes NIMASA’s Payment of $5m Legal Fee without Results
Recently, the Senate has commenced a probe into the alleged payment of $5 million as a professional fee by the Nigerian Maritime and Safety Agency (NIMASA) to a legal firm for the purpose of recovering $9.3 billion which the country lost to the global movement of Nigerian hydro-carbon resources.
The Senate Public Account Committee (SPAC) is carrying out the investigation based on the query raised by the Auditor General for the Federation (AuGF) as contained in its 2018 Annual Report.
The $5 million was said to be the five per cent of the $9.3 billion Nigerian hydro-carbon loss between 2013 and 2014.
The law firm, not disclosed, was expected to carry out necessary legal actions that would enable NIMASA to perfect an intelligence based efforts to track the nation’s hyrdo-carbon global movement.
The Chairman of SPAC, Senator Matthew Urhoghide at the last sitting of the panel, expressed dissatisfaction with the failure of the Director General of NIMASA, Dr. Bashir Yusuf Jamoh and his team to appear before it over the issue.
He said the panel had no other option than to call for the issuance of arrest warrant against the Director General.
Urhoghide lamented that his panel had invited the NIMASA management up to three times, but the officials failed to honour the invitations.
He said, “This Committee has no other option but to demand the issuance of warrant of arrest against the Director General of NIMASA.
“It is convenient for him and his team to come to the National Assembly to defend appropriation of fund, but when it is time to give account of the money they collected and spent, they will be nowhere to be found.
“This Committee had invited NIMASA up to three times to come and explain on the payment of $5 million as professional fee and details of $9.3 billion loss by the federal government, but the agency declined the invitation.”
The report of the Auditor General revealed that all efforts by the AuGF to see details of the $9.3 billion loss by the federal government for scrutiny was not granted by NIMASA.
The AuGF report indicated that the money was paid from Zenith Bank (UK) dollar account.
Part of the query read: “Audit observed that the agency engaged the service of a legal firm through a letter with reference number NIMASA/DG/KP/2014/001, dated 24th January 2014.
“It was for the intelligence based tracking of global movement of Nigerian hydro-carbon and recovery of loss by the federal government of Nigeria in the sum of $9.3 billion between 2013 and 2014, with a start-off cost of $5 million and five per cent of all sums recovered.
“Payment instruction with reference number NIMASA/2007/DFS/WJ/5.500/VOL.11/341 dated April 2014 showed that the firm was paid the sum of $4,523,809.52 (Four million five hundred and twenty three thousand eight hundred and nine dollar fifty two cents only) net as professional fees from Zenith Bank (UK) Dollar account.
“The naira equivalent of this amount was N741,904,761.28 at an exchange rate of N164 to a dollar as of that date.
“No evidence of recovery of either part or the entire sum of the 9.3 Billion US Dollars was presented as at the time of the Periodic Check in February 2018, despite the huge amount of money already paid to this effect.
“It is instructive to note that details of the transaction leading to the loss of $9.3 billion to the Federal Government which only came to audit attention through the review of the letter from the agency to the legal firm so as to ascertain what could have transpired, resulting in such a huge loss were not presented for audit.
“Ordinarily, the firm should have deducted its fees from the amounts recovered for the FGN, and not receive fees in advance in lieu of the recoveries.
” Audit is concerned that payments were made for service not rendered and this may be a deliberate attempt to divert government funds for personal use.”