Deji Elumoye in Abuja
Heads of nine federal government agencies and parastatals yesterday shunned Senate invitation to appear before it to defend their outstanding audited accounts from 2015 to date.
These agencies include: Customs Comptroller-General, Col Hammed Ali (rtd), the Chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), Prof. Mahmud Yakubu, and Governor of Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), Mr. Godwin Emefiele.
Other affected agencies are: the Office of the Accountant General of the Federation, the Department of Petroleum Resources (DPR), Federal Inland Revenue Services (FIRS), Debt Management Office (DMO), National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) and Head of Service of the Federation.
Chairman of the Senate Committee on Public Accounts, Senator Matthew Urhoghide, yesterday took exception to the absence of the heads of the aforementioned agencies to defend their outstanding accounts threatening that the Senate would not hesitate to wield the big stick if the need arises.
He has, therefore, ordered the affected heads of government agencies to appear before it unfailingly on Thursday.
The committee had in line with the provisions of section 85 of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (as amended) invited heads of 13 federal agencies to appear before it yesterday over queries issued to them by the Auditor General of the Federation on alleged infractions in their audited accounts of 2015.
But at the investigative session yesterday, only six out of the invited heads of 13 agencies honoured the invitation which angered the committee members.
Expressing the displeasure of the committee, the chairman said: “For those agencies that are already talking of representatives, please it is not going to be allowed.
“You will go back and tell your principals [to come], because we are going to subordinate you to oaths taking. So, anything you tell us will serve as evidence, because tomorrow anybody can decide to go to court. If you are going to answer these queries through proxies, it is unacceptable. Tell your heads that they should be here because there are serious consequences that have been earmarked in our financial regulations.
“If you spend money without authorisation and the regulation says you should be removed from office, that is what we are going to tell the President of this country and the executive must comply. So, nobody is going to shave anybody’s head in his or her absence.”
Urhoghide specifically took on Customs Controller of Accounts, I. S. Ibrahim, who stood in for the Customs Comptroller-General when he said his boss may not honour the Thursday invitation due to other engagements, but he told him that Hammed Ali must honour the invitation.
“Will your boss be engaged forever with whatever made him not to be here personally today. In any case, he must be here on Thursday along with heads of other agencies like that of the CBN who are not here today,” he said.
According to him, it’s the duty of the committee to ensure accountability and transparency in spending public funds.
“As the chairman of this committee, I am not going to subordinate myself to any other interrogation or excuse by any agency of the government. What has to be done has to be done here,” he added.