From Romanus Ugwu, Abuja
PRESIDENT Muhammadu Buhari has said Federal Government will not be able to disclose the exact amount retrieved so far from certain persons that looted the treasury, saying it would be used as evidence in the court trials of the indicted persons. But he assured that the recovered funds were safe in a dedicated account in the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN).
Special Assistant to the President on Media, Shehu Garba, who made the disclosure in a chat with journalists in Abuja at the weekend, said possibility of using the recovered funds as exhibit in the trial of the culprits posed a challenge.
Critics have tackled Buhari over what they considered his lack of transparency and openness regarding the much-touted recovered funds allegedly looted from government treasury.
While defending the president, Garba said: “The issue of disclosing how much has been recovered from his (Buhari) anti-graft war would be difficult because the money retrieved will be used as evidence and exhibit against the culprits in court. Since the President promised to recover and prosecute (looters), it will be difficult to disclose the figure of the millions returned.
“I am aware that there is an account in the CBN where some of these funds are being kept but they are evidences for a judge to see, it is not for public display. I think that is the challenge we have at the moment.”
President Buhari had last November during a question-and-answer with members of the Nigerian community in Tehran, Iran confirmed that some former government officials have started voluntarily returning to the Federal Government’s coffers, part of the public funds they acquired illegally.
At a different forum, the Attorney- General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami, SAN, said the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, has so far recovered over $2 trillion (about N400 trillion) looted from the national treasury.
Speaking further, Garba revealed that President Buhari has ordered the dismantling of military road blocks in the North-east zone as a confirmation of weakening Boko Haram, insisting that no part of the country is under the control of the Islamic insurgency group.
“I want to also congratulate Nigerians on the achievements Mr. President has recorded fighting insurgency, Boko Haram terrorists. The military have said it’s technical victory. I think that as citizens of this country we must be able to say and defend that. This is well beyond technical victory, no city in the country is under curfew as we speak now, and all military roadblocks have been removed except when they are necessitated by a crime situation. People are freely moving and normal life is restored to the North-east.
“People are going back to their villages, of course, the challenge is that they are going back to find out that their hospitals, churches, mosques have been destroyed and demolished, bridges, schools are not there.
“This perhaps would be the next phase the president would face to rebuild the damage facilities and infrastructure and it is hope that with the budget now approved and we heard Mr. President said that the Central Bank had more than N3 trillion saved from the use of the TSA.
“So in effect, money available will be spent from the moment the budget is passed. I believed that those who have fasted can now begin to enjoy, I mean money would be unleashed into the country and there would be lots of activities that would go forth the moment the budget is sign,” Buhari promised.