- Passes financial intelligence bill
By Ikechukwu Okaforadi and Musa Adamu
The Senate yesterday directed all the standing committees to award zero budget to about four hundred and forty seven agencies of government that have not submitted their audited report to the Auditor General of the Federation (AGF).
This resolution was sequel to the revelation made by the chairman of the Senate Committee on Public Accounts, Mathew Urhoghide, in which he told the Senate that since 2016, about 447 agencies of government have not submitted their audited reports to the Auditor General of the Federation.
He lamented that the Senate had been appropriating budget for the agencies, adding that what it implies when agencies of government fail to submit their audited report is that either the agency is no longer in existence or that the heads of the agencies are inept.
Reacting to this, the Senate President, Bukola Saraki, who expressed surprise over this, said the Senate committees should note such agencies with a view to giving them zero allocation as recommended by the committee.
He said the Senate will also communicate with the Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF) to inform the executive of this decision of the Senate, adding that it implies that something is very wrong.
Saraki added that the revelation implies that something is very wrong with the agencies of government, noting that it further explains why government anti-corruption fight is not recording the kind of successes expected from it.
He said from the report, he could see that even the agency that spearhead the anti-graft war of the present government, the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), had not submitted its audited report to the AGF.
Other agencies, according to him, are the Transmission Company of Nigeria (TCN), Bank of Industry (BoI), and Bank of Agriculture, the Central Bank of Nigeria and NNPC, among others.
However, Senator Solomon Olamilekan, in his submission, faulted the committee’s report, saying that some banks like the BoI, and others like that, do not take auditor from AGF but have their own auditor, adding that CBN, banks of agriculture and bank of industry are among such, by virtues of the Acts setting them up.
However, Mathew Urhogide countered him, insisting that the report submitted by the committee to the Senate is correct and sacrosanct, because the law says the agencies and parastatals of government should submit their audited accounts to the AGF.
The senate also, yesterday, finally approved establishment of Nigerian Financial Intelligence Agency when it passed the conference committee report of its Committee on Anti Corruption, and adopted and approved the recommendation of Committee which recommended that the agency be domiciled in the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN).
Recall that the Nigerian Financial Intelligence Agency Bill 2018 was also passed by the House of Representatives on Monday.
The report presented by the chairman, Senate Committee on Anti-Corruption and Financial Crimes, Senator Chukwuka Utazi (Enugu North) received unanimous consideration without any rigorous scrutiny because of its urgency and importance to the nation’s anti-corruption drive.
Senate President, Bukola Saraki, said the National Assembly will not delay in transmitting the Bill to President Muhammadu Buhari for his assent before the March 11, 2018 meeting of the Egmont Group, to avoid Nigeria being expelled from the international body.
Saraki had, earlier in the week, expressed confidence that the Conference Committee Report on the Nigerian Financial Intelligence Unit (Bill) will be passed by both Chambers this week.
This followed his meeting last week Thursday with the Speaker, Rt. Hon. Yakubu Dogara; the Chairman of the Senate Committee on Anti-Corruption & Financial Crimes, Senator Chukwuka Utazi; and the House of Representatives Chairman on Financial Crimes, Hon. Kayode Oladele, to expedite process of the Conference Committee in seeing the NFIU Bill through.
Nigeria was suspended from the EGMONT Group, which is a network of 152 member countries that share information relating to criminal intelligence and financial information, because of failure to meet up with the conditions of the group, one of which is to make the NFIU an independent unit.
So the bill becomes imperative because if the process of having a legal framework does not receive an accelerated consideration the chance of Nigeria avoiding expulsion from the EGMONT Group is slim.