A Senior Advocate of Nigeria and a human rights lawyer, Mr Femi Falana, has accused the Federal Government of diversion of a huge sum of money collected in US dollars and of fraudulently approving 70 per cent of its revenue collected on aliens in the country to a foreign consultant.

The allegation is contained in a letter dated 29 January, 2019 addressed to the Minister of Interior and signed by Falana with the title: Criminal diversion of public funds and wrongful enrichment of a foreign consultant by the Ministry of Interior through extortion of foreigners resident in Nigeria in gross violation of the Central Bank Act, Presidential Executive Order No 5 of 2018 and Federal Government policy on Treasury Single Account.

Falana who confirmed to Saturday Tribune on Friday that he authored the letter, accused the Ministry of Interior of illegally awarding the collection of the Combined Expatriate Residence Permit and Alien Card (CERPAC) fee to an indian firm while criminally allowing the consultant to “pocket 70 per cent” of the collection after hiking the fee from $1,000 to $2,000 per annum per foreigner in Nigeria.

According to the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) on its website, Nigeria issued 52,414 CERPAC in 2016 and generated N19,953,968,279 while in 2017 it issued 56,531 CERPAC, netting N19,035,119,000 revenue. There are no official records for the year 2018.

The letter from Falana reads:

“We are a law firm committed to the enthronement of the rule of law, transparency and public accountability in Nigeria.

“We are compelled to draw your attention to the criminal diversion of public funds and extortion of foreigners resident in Nigeria by the foreign consultants engaged by the Federal Ministry of Interior to collect the Combined Expatriate Residence Permit and Alien Card (CERPAC) fee contrary to all known rules and regulations of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. One of the foreign consultants is a company owned by an Indian national.

“Whereas the fees payable by foreigners resident in Nigeria was $1,000 per person per annum, the foreign consultants applied to the Minister of Interior to increase it to $2,000 in December 2018. And within two days of applying for the increase, the Minister of Interior granted the request. On account of the increase, Nigeria charges the highest fee paid for the Combined Expatriate Residence Permit and Alien Card (CERPAC) by foreigners in the world. A copy of the letter of the Minister of Interior which purportedly authorized the upward review of the CERPAC Fee is herewith attached as Annexure A.

“Apart from the fact that the huge amount of revenue realized from the increase of the CERPAC Fee is not captured in the Appropriation Act, 2018, the engagement of foreign consultants to collect it is a contravention of the Presidential Executive Order No 5 of 2018 which has prohibited the engagement of foreigners to perform services which can be provided locally by Nigerian citizens.

“Furthermore, all foreigners resident in Nigeria are made to pay the CERPAC Fee at the exchange rate of N370 per Dollar contrary to the provisions of Sections 15 & 20 of the Central Bank of Nigeria (Establishment) Act LFN 2004, which stipulate that the unit of currency in Nigeria shall be divided into One Hundred Kobo and that the currency note issued by the Central Bank shall be the legal tender for the payment of any amount. It is, therefore, illegal to order that the CERPAC Fee is paid in a foreign currency in Nigeria.

“The most fraudulent aspect of the illegal increase is that out of the huge revenue realized from the payment of the CERPA Fee, only 30 per cent of it is paid to the Federal Government at the official rate of N306 per Dollar while the foreign consultants are allowed to pocket the remaining 70 per cent.

“It may interest you to know that the foreign consultants have been directed by the Minister of Interior to pay the said 30 per cent into a dedicated account in a commercial bank in flagrant contravention of the Federal Government’s Policy on Treasury Single Account which unifies Government accounts to enable the Federal Ministry of Finance to maintain oversight of Government cash flow.

“In view of the foregoing, we hereby request you to use your good offices to stop the illegal increase of the CERPAC Fee of $1,000 to $2,000, direct that the Naira equivalent of the approved $CERPAC Fee of $1,000 be paid directly into the account of the Federal Government in line with the TSA policy while the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission is directed to recover the fund that has been criminally diverted through the foreign consultants engaged by the Ministry of Interior to collect the CERPAC Fee on behalf of the Federal Government.

“TAKE NOTICE that if our requests are not granted we shall not hesitate to institute legal proceedings at the Federal High Court for the recovery of the huge fund that is being criminally diverted by some highly placed officials of the Ministry of Interior and their foreign collaborators.”