Deji Elumoye in Abuja
The Senate yesterday threatened to order the arrest of the Minister of Women Affairs, Mrs. Pauline Tallen; Minister of State for Petroleum Resources, Mr. Timipre Sylva and three other ministers if they fail again to appear before its committee on Public Accounts to answer audit queries on the 2015 accounts of their respective ministries.
The three other ministers threatened with warrant of arrest are: Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed; Minister of Power, Mr. Salleh Mamman and Minister of Solid Minerals, Mr. Olamilekan Adegbite.
The Senate Committee on Public Accounts has therefore vowed to issue a warrant of arrest against the five ministers as well as the Chairman of the National Population Commission (NPC) over their failure to honour its invitation to answer audit queries issued against them by the Auditor General of the Federation ( AuGOF), Mr. Anthiny Ayine.
Chairman of the Committee, Senator Matthew Urhoghide, issued the threat when all the heads of the six ministries and parastatals expected at the investigative hearing failed to appear before the committee.
According to him, it has become an embarrassing pattern of behaviour of persons charged with government functions in the country to disobey constituted authorities on issues of public spending and accountability.
“Over a month ago, we wrote to them to come and answer the audit queries raised against them by the Auditor-General of the Federation in its 2015 Audit Report.
“But they have deliberately and irresponsibly failed to honour our invitation. Their failure to appear before this Committee amount to outright disobedience to constituted authority.
“Ministers that are even supposed to come ran away . We won’t tolerate this any longer because the infractions observed in the accounts of their various ministries run into billions of Naira. They will surely be compelled to appear before this committee through issuance of warrants of arrest against them when next they fail to honour our invitation in line with Section 89 of the Constitution,” he threatened.
The Senator lamented that the hindrances caused by the failure of the agencies to appear before the panel is part of the reasons why Nigerians often accuse the National Assembly of not discharging its duties.
“It is only in Nigeria that people will spend government’s money and fail to show up to defend their expenditure,” he said.
According to him, the ministers and heads of the affected agencies gave different flimsy excuses for their non- appearance at the investigative hearing.
The reasons given by them, he stated, are absurd, untenable and not serving any public interest.
“For example, while the Ministry of Information gave flimsy excuse of contractors who handled 3015 projects not being around, other ministries like Power, Women Affairs said they are seeing the copies of the queries for the first time,” he said.
Other members of the Committee including Senators Ibrahim Hadejia, Yusuf Abubakar Yusuf in their remarks, concurred with the Chairman that warrant of arrest should be issued against ministers and heads of the affected agencies, if they failed to honour their invitation, when next they are invited.