There is need for an accountant-general of the federation as distinct from the accountant-general of the federal government, contends Josef Omorotionmwan

Man is basically hedonistic – he seeks pleasure and avoids pain. That partly explains why he remains in his original state where only the fittest continue to survive. In the process, the strong trample on the weak at will; even without intending to do so. 

We are amazed each time we hear people say that the state government sits on the allocation of their local governments. We wonder where the federal government derives the moral authority to deal with the state governments when the same federal government exists pilfering, sometimes outrightly stealing funds from the sub nationals. Look at what the federal government is doing with the Illegal Excess Crude Account. That account has remained illegal since it was so defined by the Supreme Court of the land. In obedience to the requirements of the country’s constitution, which wants government to build its annual budget around all available revenue, the Supreme Court found that there was no need for the Excess Crude Account. It ordered that the Excess Crude Account be closed forthwith and the balance transferred to the Federation Account.

The federal government would have none of that. In its usual characteristic of picking and choosing which laws and court orders to obey and which to disobey, the federal government has since pushed the order on the Excess Crude Account aside. Whereas the Excess Crude Account is for all the federating units, the federal government has been sitting on it as a sole administrator – using the account for slush funds of all sorts. Once in a while, the federal government pulls out humongous amounts from the account to appease Cattle and Goat Rearers Associations. The federal government has so much to eat, steal and throw around while the states and local governments live in abject poverty, no thanks to our skewed federalism.

For all the Joint Accounts, the federal government is the bookkeeper and the treasurer. The balance of each account is what the federal government says it is.

For each tier of government, it is simply another day, another scandal. The federal government keeps cheating on the state government; and in turn, the state governments pounce on the local governments and in the main, most of the state governments have eaten the locals out of existence.

In all this, the ruralites are the worst for it. Recently the Minister of State, Budget and National Planning, Clement Agba, went on air and announced that the dwarfed development of the rural areas is because the states are taking the money meant for the development of those rural areas. 

The minister was right but it still seemed like catching the story halfway. A man who had the courage to say what the state governments were doing to their local governments should have completed the circle by saying what the federal government was doing to its states.

The most recent entry on this cheating page came when the federal government called the governors of the Niger Delta Oil producing areas and quietly released to them a backlog of the 13 percent derivation that has accrued to them over a long time.

To the governors, it was a windfall. Some put their cheques into their chest-pockets and pretended that nothing happened. Some ‘swallowed’ their own and cleaned their mouths. Nothing happened!

But one of them, the governor of Rivers State, Nyesom Wike, felt, in all conscience, the truth must be told. Before people might begin to wonder if he was printing money to be executing the projects he was commissioning all over Rivers State, he announced to the world that a good part of the money spent on projects came from President Muhammadu Buhari who has graciously released the fund accruing from the 13 percent derivation to Oil Producing States.

The bubble has now burst! Other governors are now scampering around, trying to gather old receipts showing that some projects completed some 20 years ago were executed from Buhari’s recent release! Wahala goes to town. That, however, is not our concern here.

Our concern is that the President, the federal government, and state governors are all guilty as charged. The 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria stipulates that no money can be spent outside the Consolidated Revenue Fund of the Federation or the State. You cannot catch any money halfway and begin to spend it. For every debit, there must be a corresponding credit. Any revenue and expenditure that takes place after the Appropriation Act for that Financial Year has been passed, must be captured within the context of Supplementary Appropriations.

We have maintained, perhaps with monotonous regularity, that there is a mistaken impression that states go to Abuja every month to get money from the federal government. Nothing could be more wrong.

By unanimous consent, the federating units agreed long ago that in the course of the month, all the revenue accruing to the Federation should be kept in a common pool known as the Federation Account. This money does not belong to the federal government alone. Rather it belongs to the Family known as the federating units – the federal government, the state government, the local governments, and the Federal Capital Territory, Abuja. At best, the federal government is only the eldest brother in this Union. It is the amount in this account that they go to Abuja to share every month.

All the same, it is still a capital error to leave the Federation Account in the hands of one member of the federating unit in-charge of the account. The person now called the Accountant-General of the Federation is actually the Accountant-General of the federal government. 

In other climes, each state and the federal government has an Accountant-General. In addition, there is a General Accounting Office (GAO) with an Accountant-General of the Federation. There is no escaping the inevitable conclusion that we now need an accountant-general of the federation as distinct from the accountant-general of the federal government.

 Much as this is a bitter pill to the federal government, it remains the only way to end the present rumble in the jungle!

 Omorotionmwan writes from Canada

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