There are debates on how the Muhammadu Buhari-led Federal Government should spend the $311m Abacha loot recently recovered from the United States of America.
The US government on May 1, transferred a total sum of $311,797,876 to the FG in accordance with a February 3, 2020 trilateral agreement among the governments of the United States, Nigeria and the Bailiwick of Jersey to repatriate assets the United States forfeited that were traceable to a former dictator Sani Abacha and his co-conspirators.
The funds returned are distinct and separate from an additional $167 million in stolen assets also forfeited in the United Kingdom and France, as well as $152 million still in active litigation in the United Kingdom.
The US government and Nigeria’s Attorney-General of Federation and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami, said the recovered funds will help finance the construction of the Second Niger Bridge, the Lagos-Ibadan Expressway and the Abuja-Kano road.
The presidency maintained that the funds have already been allocated, and will be used in full, for the second Niger Bridge, the Lagos-Ibadan and Abuja-Kaduna-Kano expressways.
A presidential spokesperson, Garba Shehu, added that “part of the funds will also be invested in the Mambilla Power Project which, when completed, will provide electricity to some three million homes – over ten million citizens – in our country.”
However, the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP has demanded that the funds should be surrendered to the National Assembly for proper statutory appropriation.
The party also urged Nigerians to resist “schemes by the cabal” to prevent them from demanding explanations on the alleged looting of repatriated funds.
The party, in a statement by its National Publicity Secretary, Kola Ologbondiyan, claimed that it uncovered “fresh plots by the cabal in the Presidency and the All Progressives Congress (APC) to use fake subheads and duplicated projects as a ploy to re-loot.”
The party alleged that the cabal had perfected the use of fake subheads as nomenclatures to mislead those who repatriated the fund and “pave way for the frittering of the money to their private pockets as they had done with earlier repatriated funds.”
The PDP claimed that part of the strategies of the cabal was to hype hazy subheads and stampede the dissipation of the funds without the statutory approval of the National Assembly, which would enable them to “muddle up accountability processes, conceal their fraud and divert the attention of the unsuspecting public from the scam.
At the present official CBN rate of N390 to a dollar, Daily Trust Online reports that the fund is N121.3bn and it is enough to fund either of these projects.
Nigeria can build 5,500 Primary Healthcare Centres (PHCs), or may choose to build 40,333 units of two-bedroom homes to cushion the housing deficit in the country.
It may also choose to use the fund for 35,920 additional classrooms that could cut classrooms shortage by 15.5 percent nationwide.
40,000 housing units for Nigerians
In 2019, the Federal Mortgage Bank of Nigeria (FMBN) said Nigeria has a 22 million housing deficit.
Records from the Federal Ministry of Works and Housing estimates that with N3m, one can build a block of two-bedroom flat.
If government decides to channel the N121.3bn Abacha loot to bridging the 22m housing infrastructure deficit, Nigerians will have 40,333 more units of two-bedroom flats nationwide.
That would have reduced the 22m deficit by 0.2 percent and the housing problem will be at 99.8 percent level to be dealt with.
5,500 hospitals across 774 LGAs
Records show that between 2014 and 2015, the National Primary Health Care Development Agency (NPHCDA) awarded 91 contracts for the construction of Primary Healthcare Centres (PHCs) at N21.9m per project.
Going with this figure, the federal government, utilizing the N121.3bn Abacha loot can build 5,514 units of PHCs adding to the 10,000 existing units with most of them in poor state.
The National Primary Healthcare Revitalization Initiative was flagged off on January 2017 to revitalize these 10,000 primary healthcare centres across 774 Local Government Areas.
The Nigerian government under the Universal Basic Education Commission (UBEC) can vote N121.2bn of this fund to build 8,980 blocks of four classrooms which will make available a record 35,920 classrooms.
That will reduce the current nationwide deficit in classrooms for primary education from 232,786 units to 196,866, reducing the deficit by at least 15.5 percent.
UBEC places the cost for building a block of four classrooms at N13.5m. Its 2018 National Personnel Audit (NPA) released in November 2019 estimated that public primary schools nationwide require 639,564 classrooms but that there are just 406,778 units available.
At least 232,786 more classrooms are needed across the 36 States and the FCT, representing a 36 percent deficit.
197,938 (49 percent) of the existing 406,778 available classrooms are already in bad condition, the report stated.
190,151 boreholes in 774 LGAs
The recovered loot can fund 190,151 boreholes across the country with 245 boreholes drilled in each of the 774 local government areas at the cost of N600, 000 per borehole.
Price check showed that heavy-duty borehole drilling usually costs between N300, 000 and N600, 000 per one.
480 kilometres of road
Nigeria can construct about 480 kilometres of road using the World Bank’s cost benchmark of N238 million per kilometre.
The stretch of the road is less than the 418.7 kilometres between Abuja and Kano.
However, road construction in Nigeria is sometimes mind-bogglingly inflated up to the tune of N1 billion per kilometre.
However, even at the cost of N1 billion per kilometer, the recovered loot can build a road stretching the about 100.4 kilometres from Lagos to Abeokuta and still leave a balance of about N14 billion.
12, 440 ventilators
With the recovered loot, Nigeria can purchase about 12, 440 ventilators at the cost of $25, 000 per one for the treatment of critically ill coronavirus patients across the country who find it difficult to breathe on their own.
Price check on key online vendors show that ventilators cost between $25,000 and $50,000 each.
Nigeria on Friday confirmed 386 new cases of COVID-19, taking the country’s total to 3,912.
“Till date, 3912 cases have been confirmed, 679 cases have been discharged and 117 deaths have been recorded in 34 states and the Federal Capital Territory,” the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control, NCDC posted.
14,261 units of 18-seater Innoson hummer buses for mass transportation
The recovered fund can purchase 14,261 units of 18-seater Innoson 6540 (hummer buses) at the cost of N8 million per unit.
Price check showed that the bus sells between N8 million and N9 million.
Each of the 774 local government areas in Nigeria can get 18 of the hummer buses to ramp up their commuter buses for intra and inter-city transportation.