Obasanjo govt squandered N15bn auto fund –

The N10 billion that vanished from the accounts of the National Automotive Council as well as the N4.9 billion that disappeared from the accounts of the National Sugar Development Council were both spirited away during the Obasanjo administration, Minister of State for Commerce and Industry Mr. Humphrey Abah said yesterday. He spoke when members of the House Committee on Industry visited the ministry on oversight function.

Chairman of the committee Mr. Solomon Agidani had asked the State Minister, who stood in for Minister of Commerce and Industry Chief Achike Udenwa, why the ministry had not yet responded to allegations earlier made before the committee that the funds had disappeared from special accounts. He asked the Minister to explain the circumstance surrounding the missing fund and illegal withdrawals to enable the committee get to the root of the issue.

NAC’s director general Engineer Aminu Jalal and the NSDC’s executive secretary Alhaji Usman Bello had at different times told the MPs of illegal withdrawals and the missing funds in their respective agencies whose accounts were kept with the Central Bank of Nigeria. told the committee last month that between 1994 and May 2007, NAC collected a total levy of N24 billion.

He said the Presidency, on the advice of the then Minister of Industry gave N3.725 billion of the funds to NAFCON in 2000. He said in 2003, it also gave N2.31 billion loan to STEYR Nigeria Ltd for a nationwide tractor scheme. He however said STEYR has paid back N1.9 billion to the federation account.Jalal also said between 2006 and 2007, N3.83 billion was taken from the funds to purchase vehicles for security officers, adding however that the officers have been paying the money to the government account.

The National Automotive Council (NAC) is entitled by law to the collection of 2% of automotive levy which is supposed to be used to promote the growth of the industry in Nigeria.Agidani told Abah yesterday, “I am surprised the ministry has not said anything over these developments. We would like the Minister to furnish this committee with a report on this matter within two weeks from today.”In his response, the Minister of State said “the two incidents occurred before we were appointed to take charge of the Ministry.”

He said the ministry would write to the Central Bank for explanation regarding the two accounts. They will then make a report to the House, he said. According to him, arrangements have been concluded for the recapitalisation of the Bank of Industries.