By Emmanuel Addeh
The Senate Committee on Public Accounts yesterday disclosed than more than 300 agencies and parastatals of the federal government are yet to submit their accounts to auditors for screening, decrying the situation as anomaly.
The Chairman, Senate Committee on Public Accounts, Matthew Urhohide, who spoke along with his counterpart, Senator Olubunmi Adetumbi, chairman, Senate Committee on National Planning and Intergovernmental Affairs, during an event organised by Mothergold Consulting, noted that even the anti-corruption agencies had not been audited for a long time.
The event, which was held in Abuja, was put together to discuss the role of the National Assembly and civil society organisations in improving accountability and performance of the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC).
Urhohide maintained that the use of “service-wide votes” by the federal government is one of the biggest avenues for graft, stressing that huge amount of money from there remains unaccounted for.
According to the federal lawmaker, “It is unacceptable that the practice of not auditing the books of agencies and parastatals of government still persists in government, and even continuing under the current administration.
“There’s nobody in this country today that would say that the president as an individual is a corrupt person, but look at all the things happening around him. If these things have happened for 15, 16 or 20 years, must they be allowed to continue? Can we allow it for another day or another year?
“Government agencies do so many things and they get away with it…even the law enforcement agencies, responsible for arresting law breakers, their accounts have not been audited. You have been coming for appropriation, but you don’t give account.
“For 43 years, NNPC did not have any audited accounts, and it’s not just only NNPC, over 300 agencies till today have not been audited. If you tell the president that this man has been getting appropriations without accounting for it, that’s the best you can do. That’s why we need the civil society organisations, the media or even the #EndSARS protesters to fight this anomaly, so that they would know we are not joking.”
For the petroleum industry, the senator expressed the hope that when the Petroleum Industry Bill (PIB) is passed into law, it would solve some of the current problems, including the cost of production of a barrel of crude oil, which he described as the highest in the world.
Urhohide maintained that it smacks of corruption when the federal government has N358 billion that it calls service-wide votes, arguing that nobody accounts for the money.
In his remarks, Adetumbi argued that the situation that makes the NNPC both a regulator and operator would not augur well for accountability, saying it makes it a judge in its own case.
He further noted that the practice that made it possible for one leg of the tripods (the federal government) in the country to be able to “disenfranchise and dispossess” everybody without consent also needs to be reviewed.
The lawmaker wondered why the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) doesn’t run a commercial bank; why the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) does not have an operating licence like the telecommunications operators, and why the Nigeria Insurance Commission has not floated an insurance company, yet the NNPC plays a dual role as an operator and a regulator.