Banks with looted funds identified, says Buhari
• U.S. to assist recovery, support in the fight against B’Haram
• Saraki pledges Senate’s backing for President against insurgency
PRESIDENT Muhammadu Buhari has assured that his administration will take concrete steps to recover looted Nigerian funds by identifying countries, banks and financial institutions in which payments for stolen Nigerian crude oil have been deposited.
He made the disclosure during an audience with a delegation of visiting United States (U.S.) Congressmen, led by Representative Darrel Issa, at the State House, Abuja yesterday.
Also, the President ordered the National Planning Commission (NPC) to go back to the drawing board and produce the framework for a 2016 national budget that would reduce recurrent expenditure and prioritise developmental projects.
He gave the directive after receiving a briefing from the Executive Secretary of the Commission, Dr. Bassey Akpanyung, who led the directors and other top management staff to the Presidential Villa as a continuation of briefings from the ministries, departments and agencies, (MDAs).
A statement by his Media aide, Garba Shehu quoted the President as directing Akpanyung and directors of the NPC to give capital projects priority because Nigeria cannot achieve real development without adequate investment in capital and infrastructural projects.
“In carrying out its role in surveillance of the economy, review and appraisal of policies, the Commission should devise a plan for a realignment of the budget so that capital projects can be really prioritised,” the President directed.
Also, Nigeria and U.S. officials have met to terminate restrictions and prohibitions as laid down in the Leah Law that have affected the fight against Boko Haram insurgents just as the U.S. promised to assist in training, equipment supplies and technical support despite the restrictions.
In another development, Senate President, Dr. Abubakar Bukola Saraki said the Senate will do everything humanly possible through legislation to ensure that the six-year Boko Haram insurgency the North East sub-region becomes a thing of the past.
In a statement by his spokesman, Femi Adesina, Buhari also acknowledged the support and cooperation his administration was getting from the international community in gathering required intelligence for tracing and recovering stolen national resources.
His words: “We are getting cooperation from the international community, including information on ships that take crude oil from Nigeria and change direction, or pour their contents into other ships mid-stream.
“Some monies were paid to individual accounts. We are identifying the financial institutions and countries that are involved.
“I have been assured that when we get all our documents together, the United States and other countries will treat our case with sympathy,’’ the President said.
Buhari told the Congressmen that his administration would welcome more regular meetings of the Nigeria-United States Bi-National Commission since the commission could serve as a more useful platform for the promotion of bilateral trade and economic relations as well as joint cooperation in the war against terrorism.
Darrel assured Buhari that the U.S. will support Nigeria against Boko Haram by providing training, intelligence and military platforms. “We look forward to helping you in many ways to end the Boko Haram insurgency and the theft of crude oil in the Gulf of Guinea,’’ he said.
At the meeting at wherecounter terrorism and human rights issues were discussed at the National Defence College (NDC) in Abuja, by Nigerian Service Chiefs and visiting members of the U.S. Congress Judicial Committee, the Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Defence, Ismaila Aliyu, who led the Nigerian team said the visit of the President to the U.S. has started yielding dividends.
“The delegation of U.S. Congress is on a visit to Nigeria as a follow up to President Buhari’s, is a great gain to the country and has rekindled the hope and aspiration of the two countries.
“The U.S. has trust in the President and people of Nigeria and also very concerned about the security situation in Nigeria and Lake Chad Basin area, which is one of the reasons for the visit to discuss with the Service Chiefs,” Aliyu said.
He stated that the meeting also talked about insecurity and human rights, and “gaps that have been created before and identified are definitely going to be worked on and resolved.”
Leader of the delegation, Issah, who spoke to journalists after the meeting, said the talks centered on many issues of mutual interest, principally on providing technical support in the fight against the Boko Haram terrorists.
“There were number of things that were discussed, basically the need for additional technical support including overhead surveillance to fight Boko Haram. This is also important to stop the oil theft by pirates and other security challenges in the country,” he said.
He added that the agenda included how to address alleged human rights violation in order to lift the restrictions as stipulated in the Leah Law.
Issah also noted that the two countries still remain partners and allies, despite the seemingly lack of support to the preceding administration of former President Goodluck Jonathan due to the limitations imposed by the divisive law.
Saraki said he and his colleagues were in Maiduguri “for the first time after our inauguration to identify with victims and people of Borno State over the spate of killings and bombings by insurgents. We also condoled with our people over the agony they found themselves in as a result of the ongoing crisis.”
He added: “On behalf of the Senate, we will do everything to see to the end of Boko Haram through motions and resolutions to let the whole world know that we are capable to do our best to stop this carnage perpetrated by Boko Haram madness.”
On rebuilding of destroyed towns and villages, Saraki said: “We will set aside every needed thing to resettle our people of the Northeast and rebuild all the communities destroyed by insurgents. We will support the executive under the leadership of President Mohammed Buhari who is committed to seeing to the end of this madness and to ensure that all areas destroyed by insurgents are rebuilt in no distant future.”
Responding, Governor Kashim Shettima thanked the Senate president and other members of his delegation for taking their time to visit Borno; despite the security challenges posed by insurgents.