The Nigerian House of Representatives Committee on Public Accounts on Monday gave a 72-hour ultimatum to six Federal Government agencies to appear before it to clear themselves on allegations of fraud as contained in the Auditor General for the Federation’s queries in the year ended December 31, 2019.
The arrest warrant threatened is a result of the absence of the invited agencies as the committee resumed hearing on Monday.
The following are the agencies invited to appear before the House Panel.
The Rural Electrification Agency, REA.
The Nigerian Upstream Petroleum Regulatory Commission, NUPRC.
The Nigerian Export Promotion Council, NEPC.
The Nigeria, Export Processing Zones Authority, NEPZA.
It was gathered that the members of the Public Accounts Committee gathered in the hearing room for hours, awaiting the arrival of the Chief Executive Officers of the invited agencies. Originally billed for 10 a.m., the event was rescheduled for 1 p.m. in what was a show of respect for the invited agencies by the federal lawmakers.
After waiting for hours, REA sent a letter to the committee stating that it would not be able to attend the hearing because the Managing Director of the agency, Salihijo Ahmad was out of the country.
REA wants to speak up on five queries including extra-budgetary allocation of N394.3m, a Toyota Hilux vehicle taken away by its former board chairman, payment of N36.6m for an international training without evidence of attendance, extra-budgetary expenditure on advert and publicity amounting to N4.24m and unauthorised transfer from the capital to Eurobond ledger totalling N969.4m.
A document which was cited by the House Journalist shows that the NUPRC was queried for offences relating to a statutory 1 per cent stamp duty of N20m deducted but paid back to contractors/consultants. The agency allegedly failed to deduct one percent Industrial Training Fund from the 2019 payroll amounting to N119 m, among sundry ills.
NIGCOMSAT was to speak on issues relating to non-remittance of deducted taxes amounting to N96m, and store items purchased but not taken on ledger charge (N250m).
The Nigeria Export Promotion Council and the Nigerian Export Processing Zones Authority were similarly queried for sundry financial misdeeds.
Also speaking to the Public Accounts Committee, a member representing Shomolu Federal Constituency, Lagos State, Ademorin Kuye lamented the failure of the agency to appear before the committee, saying they were toying with the opportunity offered them by the panel to clear their names.
According to the Lawmaker, “There is an allegation of N2bn fraud against REA in the 2017 audited report of the Office of the Auditor General for the Federation. They are yet to clear themselves. In the 9th Assembly, they were invited to appear before this Committee, but they kept giving excuses. They never honoured our invitation.
He said: “In the 9th Assembly, NIGCOMSAT was accused of taking a $467m Chinese loan without due process but they never appeared before the Public Accounts Committee to defend themselves. There was also a petition against NEPZA that it was a conduit pipe for siphoning monies. Despite invitations sent to them, they did not appear to tell their side of the story. This is unacceptable. The 10th House of Assembly will not take this.”
Hon. Ginger Onwusibe, member representing Isiala Ngwa North/South Federal Constituency, Abia, State in his contribution urged the Chairman of the Committee, Bamidele Salam to invoke his powers to issue a warrant of arrest against the heads of the invited agencies.
Sharing the same thought, Tunji Olawuyi (Ekiti/Esin/Irepodun Federal Constituency, Kwara State) argued that if the agencies had any defence whatsoever, they would have appeared before the committee to tender the same.
Also speaking, Femi Bamisile representing Emure/Gbonyin/Ekiti East Federal Constituency, Ekiti State advised members to stop visiting the agencies being investigated, stating that in no time, the committee will make scapegoat of them if they continue to ignore invitations to appear for questioning.
To this end, Lawmakers unanimously resolved that the agencies should be given another opportunity to appear before the Public Accounts Committee, Billy Osawuru (APC, Edo State) amended the motion urging the Committee to summon the six heads of the agencies within 72 hours.
The agencies are now expected to appear before the Committee on Thursday.