•Says corruption, conflict banes of Africa’s development
• Falana: USA, UK, others sustaining graft in Nigeria
Ndubuisi Francis, Alex Enumah in Abuja and Sunday Ehigiator in Lagos
In a fresh initiative to enthrone greater transparency in government business, President Muhammadu Buhari yesterday directed the Office of the Accountant General of the Federation (OAGF) to publish daily financial statements of federal government’s transactions.
The president, in far away Rwanda, also identified corruption and internal conflicts within the African region as the major challenges that should be tackled in a bid to actualise the 60-year dream of a regionally integrated Africa.
Buhari spoke just as the Chairman of the Human and Environmental Development Agenda (HEDA) Resources Centre, and human rights lawyer, Mr. Femi Falana (SAN), accused the United States, the United Kingdom and other capitalist countries of being the propellers of corruption by politicians in Nigeria for their own selfish gains.
Buhari’s directive on the publication of daily financial transactions of the government was given in Abuja at the launch of a new Financial Transparency Policy/Open Treasury Portal designed to give the citizenry access to information on fiduciary matters, improve accountability and transparency in public financial management.
The policy/portal compels daily statements from the Office of the Accountant General of the Federation (OAGF) giving summary flows in and out of the treasury with a breakdown of agencies responsible.
Buhari, who was represented at the launch by the Minister of State for Niger Delta Affairs, Senator Tayo Alasoadura, directed the Accountant General of the Federation (AGF), Mr. Ahmed Idris, to henceforth ensure the publication of daily inflows and outflows of MDAs.
His administration, he stated “has committed to full implementation of the Freedom of Information Act 2014 so that government-held-data-sets can be availed and used by the media and the public at large. All MDAs are required to promptly respond to additional requests for information beyond what is published.
“With these reports, the treasury will publish payments of at least N10 million, while all MDAS must publish payments above N5 million made out of all public funds under their purview.”
According to Buhari, the information “must include the MDA responsible, the beneficiary, the purpose and amount of each payment,” adding that “accounting officers are responsible for providing answers to any questions from the public relating to transactions completed by entities under their charge.”
Buhari added that all MDAS must publish monthly budget performance reports.
These reports, he noted, must include performance of the budget by various dimensions, including MDAs, functions and economic activities performed by all federal government agencies.
These reports, he stressed, must be ready within seven days after the end of the month.
The president also directed the AGF to “publish monthly fiscal accounts detailing fiscal performance of the federation, including receipts from all the collection agencies and payments out of the Federation Account.”
He directed that the publication must be done within 14 days after the end of the month.
Buhari equally directed that the AGF and all accounting officers of MDAs “must publish quarterly financial statements for government as a whole and for individual MDAS respectively. These must be published within a month after the end of the quarter.”
The AGF must also publish Annual General Purpose Financial Statements while all public sector entities are required to publish statements for their individual entities.
These statements must be prepared following International Public Sector Accounting Standards and must be ready within a month after the end of the first quarter of the following year, the president stated.
According to him, public officers should act in the awareness of the reality that information about their fiduciary responsibilities and actions will be easily accessed by not only law enforcement agencies but also the general public.
The president urged contractors and other service providers to government agencies, to “take note that any payment you receive from the public purse will be published. Ensure you collect public money for legitimate purposes for if not, it will not take long before it is known.”
The new policy, a brainchild of the OAGF, according to the president, has to be implemented in order to achieve the cementing of government’s commitment to improving governance and supplementing the recently launched Whistle-blower policy and equipping the general population with the tools they need to report financial wrongdoing.
To enable the implementation of the policy, the online portal, www.opentreasury.gov.ng, was activated yesterday for all MDAs to publish all the information required by the policy and for immediate access by all Nigerians.
Says Corruption, Conflict Banes of Africa’s Development
Meanwhile, Buhari yesterday in Rwanda identified corruption and internal conflicts within the African region as the major challenges that should be tackled in a bid to actualise the 60-year dream of a regionally integrated Africa.
Speaking at Africa’s Presidential roundtable tagged; “The next 60 years in Africa: Looking for Wins” held at Intare Conference Arena, in the Rwandan city of Kigali, Buhari said knowledge economy, artificial intelligence and delivery of ideas as well as serene policy environment had been identified as answers to Africa’s quest for development.
The president was represented at the occasion by the Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Mr. Abubakar Malami (SAN), a statement issued yesterday in Abuja by the minister’s spokesman, Dr. Umar Gwandu, said.
“To my mind, I think there are major issues that constitute hindrance to Africa’s integration despite having in place a policy email that will allow integration in Africa.
“I find the issue of corruption and prevailing conflict as serious setback militating against the development and integration of Africa,” the president said.
According to him, conflict and corruption within the region hinder policy environment and delivery of ideas.
The president urged the African Union and stakeholders in the development of Africa to vigorously pursue the processes of surmounting the challenges posed by corruption and internal conflict for a regionally integrated Africa and the next 60 years Africa envisaged.
He said: “If we are talking of having a road network project infrastructure for example passing through Nigeria, Chad and perhaps down to Southern Sudan, a project, which may take two to three years to complete may end up taking up to 15 years to complete arising from the conflicts making access and penetration to projects areas impossible.”
On the corruption, Buhari said it had negative impact on development as a project that might cost $1 billion to execute might end up consuming much more resources arising from multiplicity of chain of corruption with the result not having been timely achieved and quality compromised.
Speaking on the same issues, the Chairman of African Union, Mr. Moussa Mahamat, said although there was no conflict between sovereign African states, internal wrangling within the region characterised by political unrest, insecurity, insurgencies and militancy must be addressed in order to “silence the gun” in the region.
Mahamat said over $50 billion was embezzled in Africa due to corrupt practices, the amount, which was much bigger than combined international aids that the African continent received across the globe.
Falana: Corruption in Nigeria is Sustained by USA, UK, Others
Also yesterday, Falana accused capitalist countries of being the propellers of corrupt practices by politicians in Nigeria for their own selfish gains.
He made this remark during the public presentation and launch of the third edition of the book, ‘Compendium of High Profile Corruption Cases in Nigeria,’ in Lagos.
“Let me also now tell you that corruption is nurtured and sustained by capitalism. Any capitalist country, USA, Britain, and all of them are corrupt.
“How come that the bulk of the stolen money here is warehoused by those countries? When you are bringing your money, they turn a blind eye and begin to use the money for the development of their own country,” he said.
He said Nigeria between 2014 and 2019 wasted N1.5 trillion under the guise of solving the poor power situation of the country, which only got worse irrespective of the huge money claimed to have been expended on it.
He described the case against his client, Mr. Omoyele Sowore, as a fight against his media outlet, Sahara Reporters, and other truth-speaking media houses, believed to be capable of exposing corrupt practices in the current administration.
He said he would be asking the court to strike out the case against his client by the next sitting date in February, should the federal government fail to provide the documents showing testimony of the witness against Sowore, as required by law.
Also, Falana described the hate speech bill as a political immunity against truth and war against media houses and a re-enactment of the sedition law, while linking same to the trial of Sowore.
According to Falana, “I am commending HEDA for yet another edition of a compendium on gross corruption in our country, which at least, two of our judges have regarded and have likened the corrupt practices of some convicted governors to crimes against humanity.
“If you recall last week, Justice Idris, in convicting the former governor of Abia State, did describe what happened as crime against humanity.
“It goes beyond corruption when in an extremely poor country, a governor steals billions; it’s no longer the case of ordinary corruption. If you put all of these funds together, you can banish poverty from a country called Nigeria, and that would have a great impact on Africa, in that we would be taken as a serious people.
“Sending the president abroad for medical treatment is the greatest shame you can talk about. When Mandela took ill after he had left office, he never travelled out of the country; he was treated in his country, and died in his country.”