Following the apparent closure of the avenue for looting the national treasury, siphoning monies meant to fund the budget at the end of the year through the return of unspent funds, government officials have now shifted their attention to diverting funds provided for development and other such partnerships by international donor agencies.
According to the chairman of the House Committee on Civil Societies and Donor Agencies, Hon Eseme Eyiboh, the fact that the receipt of international assistance, aid and grants is not being harmonised and monitored has been taken as an advantage to divert such funds to personal use.
Speaking exclusively to LEADERSHIP SUNDAY Friday in Abuja, Eyiboh said: “It is helping to create an opportunity for corruption because most of the items that assistance is being received on are already provided for in the budget and the same thing is given out as assistance. So there is no harmonisation.
And Nigeria is operating a project support system and not a budget support system in the area of intervention. So that is why attention of government officials has now been shifted, as far as corruption is concerned, from-the issue of unspent funds which returning to the treasury came and took away and is now going in the direction of donations and assistance”.
Explaining an instance of how corruption thrives in the area, he noted that Nigeria has contributed over N30 billion into Global Fund which is the donor basket for intervention in malaria, tuberculosis and HIV and in the national budget, while there are also provisions under MDGs (Millennium Development Goals) or ministry of health for provision of mosquito-treated nets, HIV anti-retroviral drugs and, of course, tuberculosis cocktail of treatment.
“Now because the global funds have now sent in the items – they may send it either in money or the materials – the same items are budgeted for and so it becomes difficult to know how much money in the budget was used for purchasing the items and what percentage of the one provided for is represented in the budget”.
The lawmaker, who was the spokesman of the House in the sixth Assembly, also raised the alarm over the potentiality of funds being sent into the country to fund activities that will undermine the security of the country disguised as aid or assistance.
He pointed out: “We are in a regime of insecurity in Nigeria and you see, the issue of insecurity in Nigeria is associated with so many things but not necessarily limited to the internal terrorist tendencies.
For a situation where aid and assistance coming into Nigeria are not monitored and harmonised, there is the tendency that some foreign organisations or foreign INGOs, that is international non-governmental organisations, can now send in money in the name of assistance or aid to anybody which usage can undermine security in Nigeria and create security problem”.
Eyiboh said that, being aware of all this, the House empowered the committee since December last year to conduct an investigation into the matter, including that in the case of alleged diverted donor funds to forex trading by drivers of funds and report back to the House but has not been able to hold investigative hearings due to unforeseen events.
He explained: “We set out a date for public hearing which the House empowered us to do. The first time was that fuel subsidy strike time, and then we rescheduled it for a Monday of the following week; the fuel subsidy protest had continued. We suffered heavy losses twice as a result of that action.
So we are now talking with the leadership of the House to reschedule another one and, while waiting for the rescheduling, we are engaging a lot of these organisations. We are also looking at the budget to see that those things represented in the template are not duplicated.
If, for example, UNDP, EU and organisations like that are intervening in development partnerships, we have to look at those organisations that are the end beneficiaries of these partnerships and, where we find them, we look at the budget to see if they have been duplicated. If there are duplications, we draw attention of the appropriate authorities to that fact because, to me, it is another way of elevating corruption to an international level”.
The committee had brought to the fore, in December last year, through two separate motions moved on the floor of the House and adopted by the House, a shady practice where funds are being received from international non-governmental organisations, multilateral organisations and bilateral organisations without being monitored, leading to misapplication and, in some cases, diversion to personal use.
Also among issues of concern expressed in the motion was unwillingness by the providers of the donations or assistance, as the case may be, to allow the nation’s policies to drive the application of the funds.
“You will hear in the international arena one bilateral organisation or this multilateral organisation or an NGO is giving Nigeria assistance of $1billion maybe in vaccines or any of those items but, at the end of the day... take for instance, anti-malarial drugs.
They provided the money but 95 per cent of that money was used to outsource anti-malaria drugs in Europe and India when we have May and Baker and other local internationally acclaimed pharmaceutical companies that NAFDAC has even attested to their quality control.
“You and I and a majority of Nigerians are taking anti-malaria drugs from these companies. If it is so, why should the international practice of these countries giving assistance be to outsource such from Europe? You may as well give it to local companies here who will now provide the drugs.
That will help to develop our economies because the pharmaceutical companies will employ more chemists, more quality assurance officers, more pharmacists.
So it will now also help in assisting in the downstream, the issue of unemployment, and boost the internally generated revenue of the country because they are going to pay taxes to government, but that has not been done”.