*Says decision meant to prevent diversion by National Assembly, MDAs
Adedayo Akinwale in Abuja
The presidency yesterday revealed that the $311 million loot by the late former military Head of State, General Sani Abacha, which was repatriated to the country, had been paid directly to contractors for various jobs executed for the government. It said the direct payment was to prevent the National Assembly and the Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs) from diverting the money.
The federal government had in May received $311,797,866.11 as part of recovered assets of the former military dictator. The fund, which was repatriated from the United States and the Bailiwick of Jersey, was committed to expediting the construction of the Lagos-Ibadan expressway, Abuja-Kano road, and the Second Niger Bridge,
Senior Special Assistant to President Muhammadu Buhari on Public Affairs, Ajuri Ngelale, explained during a virtual town hall meeting hosted on Twitter by the Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu Media Centre, how the presidency prevented the National Assembly from diverting the money.
While presenting the scorecard of the Buhari administration, especially, in the area of infrastructure, Ngelale said the country would not be able to expand its revenue base without putting the infrastructure on ground.
According to Ngelale, “The cycle does not begin until you put the infrastructure on the ground. What we’ve been doing for the last 40-50 years before this administration was essentially living on borrowed time, where you have oil revenues coming in very effortlessly and all of that and we’re simply sharing it across import purchase and other forms of misuse.”
Ngelale explained that considering the infrastructure deficit in the country, the Buhari government devised innovative ways to finance, to bridge 50 years of infrastructure neglect in the country. He said it was based on this that the Sukuk bond was issued in 2017, which he said was oversubscribed when it was floated.
The presidential aide stated, “So, I think the country was shocked when there was an oversubscription to the tune of about 120 per cent. When we were asking for N100 billion and we came away with about N133 billion due to oversubscribed Sukuk from the private investors on the stock market.”
Ngelale explained that the Sukuk bond was oversubscribed because investors had confidence due to the verifiable mechanisms put in place by the government for Sukuk fund application. He said the fund would go towards the construction of roads and the investors would get the money back through the utilisation of those roads
The presidential aide added that the federal government also initiated the Presidential Infrastructure Development Fund (PIDF), which helped to provide a large sum for the construction of three major projects – the Second Niger Bridge, Lagos-Shagamu-Ibadan Expressway, and Abuja-Kaduna-Zaria Expressway.
Ngelale stated, “So you have three major projects under the PIDF that we have been able to fund directly to the contractor through the Nigerian Sovereign Investment Authority (NSIA).
“And Nigerians have seen the truth of that, we don’t have to boast about it or talk about it because they can see it. Whether it’s a Second Niger Bridge, whether it’s the Lagos-Ibadan Expressway or whether it’s the Abuja-Kano, they know the work that is going on, it’s not in dispute.
“And because of the structure of the Presidential Infrastructure Development Fund conceived by President Muhammadu Buhari, nobody, no middleman can put his finger on a kobo of that money on $1 of that money.
“And, of course, we’ve been able to further galvanise other funding inputs from, of course, the Abacha loot, signing deals with the with the US government and the Jersey authorities to ensure that $311 million was put back into those three projects, with each project taking about $103 million or 33.3 per cent of the total Abacha loot that was sent back.
“So, that’s another one where we’ve been able to mobilise private and public financing to be able to directly get this money into the hands of contractors straight without National Assembly diversion, without MDAs diversion, and all of that.”
Ngelale said the Apapa-Oworonsoki-Tollgate road would be completed by December 2022, just as Lagos-Sagamu-Ibadan Expressway and Second Nigeria Bridge. He said the Abuja-Kaduna-Zaria-Kano Expressway would be completed in 2023, while the Lekki Deep Sea Port would be completed by December this year.