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Published On: Wed, Feb 12th, 2020

Senate at daggers-drawn with Customs, CBN, FIRS, others

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By Ikechukwu Okaforadi

The Senate Committee on Public Accounts (SPAC) yesterday squired up for a showdown with the Comptroller General of Nigeria Customs Service (NIS), Col Hammed Ali (rtd), the Central Bank Governor (CBN), Godwin Emefiele, Federal Inland Revenue Service (FIRS) and other heads of government revenues generating agencies over their inability to submit their audited accounts report to the office of the Auditor General of the Federation (AGF) in the last five years.
Consequently, the chairman of the Committee, Mathew Urhoghide (PDP Edo South), ordered the absentee heads of government agencies to appear before it unfailingly on Thursday this week.
The committee had in line with section 85 of the 1999 constitution, invited heads of 13 federal agencies to appear before it over queries issued them by the Auditor General of the Federation on alleged infractions in their audited accounts of 2015.
But at the investigative session, only six out of the invited heads of 13 agencies, honoured the invitation which infuriated the committee members.
In expressing their displeasure, Chairman of the committee 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 and anything you tell us, tomorrow if anybody decides to go to court, for people to have proper justification and evidence to show that you came before the National Assembly with what you said.
“So 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 consequencies that have been earmarked in our financial regulations.
“If you spend money without authorization 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”.
The Chairman specifically descended on Custioms Controller of Accounts, I .S Ibrahim, when he said his boss may not honour the Thursday session due to other engagements by pointedly telling 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.
He added that it is 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 said.
The other affected agencies are the office of the Accountant General of the Federation, Department of Petroleum Resources (DPR), Federal Inland Revenue Services (FIRS), Debt Management Office (DMO), Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) and Head of Service of the Federation.

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