The Senate, through its Public Accounts Committee, has ordered the arrest of Dr Bashir Jamoh, Director-General of the Nigerian Maritime and Safety Agency, for allegedly paying a legal firm $5 million as a professional fee for the recovery of a $9.3 billion loss.
The $5 million was paid for the intelligence-based tracking of a global movement of Nigerian hydrocarbons and the recovery of a $9.3 billion loss by the Federal Government of Nigeria between 2013 and 2014.
Senator Matthew Urhogbide, Chairman of the Committee, was furious with the agency during a briefing on Sunday, saying that the panel had no choice but to issue a warrant of arrest against the DG of NIMASA.
He said, “We have invited NIMASA up to three times, but they have failed to honour our invitations. This committee has no other option than to issue a warrant of arrest against the Director General of the agency. They can come to the National Assembly for fund appropriation, but when it is time to give account they will be nowhere to be found.
“The committee had invited NIMASA up to three times for the explanation on the payment of $5 million as professional fee and details of $9.3bn loss by the Federal government, but the agency declined the invitation”.
According to the Auditor General’s report, all efforts by the Auditor General of the Federation to obtain details of the Federal government’s $9.3 billion loss for thorough scrutiny were denied by NIMASA.
According to the AuGF report, the funds were transferred from Zenith Bank (UKdollar )’s account.
“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 for the intelligence-based tracking of a global movement of Nigerian Hydro-Carbon and recovery of loss by the Federal Government of Nigeria for $9.3 billion between 2013 and 2014, with a start-up cost of $5 million and 5% of all sums recovered”, the query stated. 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 dollars fifty-two cents only) net as professional fees from Zenith Bank (UK) Dollar account.
“The naira equivalent of this amount was ₦741,904,761.28 at an exchange rate of ₦164 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 at the time of the periodic check-in 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 $9.3bn to the Federal Government which only came to audit attention through the review of the letter from the agency to the legal firm 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 instead of the recoveries”.
It added, “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.
The Director-General is required to justify the payment for service not rendered, failing which the sum of ₦741,904,761.28 should be recovered from the legal firm and paid into the CRF, forwarding evidence of payment to the Public Account Committees of the National Assembly and the Office of Auditor-General for the Federation for verification. Sanctions stated in FR 3104 should apply. He is also required to provide details of the transaction(s) leading to the loss of 9.3 Billion US Dollars for thorough scrutiny”.
Efforts to get a reaction from NIMASA on Sunday were not successful.