The Special Presidential Investigation Panel for the Recovery of Public Property said it had commenced investigation towards recovering about $7 billion given to commercial banks as financial bailout 12 years ago.

LEADERSHIP Weekend gathered that the money was given to the commercial banks in 2006, 2007 and 2008, but till now the money is yet to be returned to the coffers of the federal government.

Speaking yesterday during the handing over of 18 jeeps recovered for the National Population Commission (NPC) at the Eagles Square, Abuja, the head of the presidential panel, Chief Okoi Obono Obla, said that within a short period, the panel had been able to recover several assets belonging to the government that were taken away by some previous public officers.

Obla revealed that the panel was investigating the non-refund of about $7 billion given to commercial bank to step up their business activities about 12 years ago, insisting that the panel will ensure the money is return to the government coffers.

“The money was given to the banks by the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN). This money was given to the banks as bailout. When we inquired from the CBN the status of the money, the CBN said the money was a ‘dash’ (gift) to commercial banks. How will you ‘dash’ public money to commercial banks?” Obla asked, noting that commercial banks were not agencies of the federal government of Nigeria.

“The commercial banks belong to individuals. So, we are investigating and we are going to recover that money and return it to the coffers of the Federal Republic of Nigeria,” Obla said.

Efforts to get clarifications from the CBN were fruitless at the time of going to press.

On how the asset panel recovered18 jeeps belonging to the NPC, Obla said that in March 2017, the panel received credible information that the commissioners that served in the agency had left with the official cars despite the monetisation policy they enjoyed while in office.

“Our panel swung into action and recovered the vehicles. If it were in the previous administration, these vehicles will never be returned to the government,” Obla said.

He urged Nigerians to make proper use of the whistle blower policy and offer credible information to the panel.

Receiving the keys of the jeeps, the NPC chairman, Chief Duru Iheoma, who was represented by the director of Census, Dr Liman Shettima Baba, said the vehicles would be very helpful to the commission.

Baba noted that NPC was faced with utility challenges but that the recovery of the 18 jeeps would ease that to a great extent, even as he thanked the panel for the good work.