The House of Representatives Joint Committee on Finance and Banking and Currency yesterday threatened to use the constitutional powers available to it
to issue a warrant of arrest to banks chiefs and others who fail to appear before the House when summoned, respond to its letters or submit all the required documents.
The lawmakers made this known at the opening of the investigative hearing into the alleged over $30 billion annual revenue leakage between 2010 and 2019, by the joint House Committee on Finance and Banking and Currency, with the view to identifying and plug the leakages.
The Chairman of the Committee, Hon. Abiodun James Faleke, noted that the investigative hearing is not about witch-hunting anybody or organisation, but it’s about assisting Nigeria to get out of its financial woes.
Faleke stressed that Nigeria has enough resources within its system if every player on the economic sector play by the rules.
He said: “What we mean by play by the rules is ‘let everybody pay the taxes that the organisations or individuals are due to pay’. We have records to show that Nigeria is losing over $30 billion every year to malpractice, and evasive of taxes legally due to government. It was based on that that this motion was moved for investigation to be done, and letters have been written to banks in the first instance before we move to the next stage.
“The letters also were written to the oil companies too. We expect responses from the banks; some have submitted partial documents, while some have not submitted at all.
We are not witch-hunting, and we also not pass judgement on anybody; ours is to look at what is happening and recommend reforms of our laws to be able to block such loopholes in the future. This is what we expect from the affected people, who should cooperate with us. Everyday, in the next weeks or months, we would be sitting here to look at these issues.’’
Faleke further reiterated the constitutional powers of the legislature to invite anyone for an investigative hearing.
The lawmaker made reference to the decision taken by Stanbic IBTC to challenge the powers of the House to stop the ongoing investigation in the court.
He said: “Somebody went to the court to challenge the powers of the National Assembly. In a democracy, you should expect that and the courts are there to determine the laws which are very clear in Section 88, 89 we can invite anybody under the sun to testify.”
Addressing the Committee, Stanbic IBTC representative, Mr. John Ngaragu, explained that the bank had in no time sued the House over the investigative hearing, saying one of the customers did against House.
Earlier, while declaring the investigative hearing open, the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Hon. Femi Gbajabiamila, said the House observed that Nigeria is facing hard times as a result of the crash in the price of crude oil and global economic slowdown.
Gbajabiamila said in a bid to bail out the country, the House resolved towards blocking all leakages through legislative action.