Special Report

September 10, 2013

Emergency rule (for chartered accountants) (2)

Emergency rule (for chartered accountants) (2)

Kabir Alkali Mohammed

By Bashorun JK Randle

This is the third and concluding part of this piece. The second part was published Monday.

THE damage to the accountancy profession in Nigeria was colossal. Subsequently, at the international level serious doubts were being raised about the quality of accounts emanating from Nigeria. To my mind, no purpose is served by being in denial, without going through the rigorous exercise of separating perception from reality.

Unfortunately, in the market for professional services perception equals reality!!

Those were indeed dark days for our beloved profession.

Let us now revert to the clamour for the declaration of State of Emergency (for the Accountancy Profession).

It would appear that the triggers are the “Fear Index” and “Uncertainty of the Future” by a crop of young (and some of them are not so young!!) Chartered Accountants who have invested their resources and skills in setting up their own firms. Over the years, they have built up their own clientele whom they have served faithfully and diligently. Now, their livelihood and the survival of their firms are under threat. According to them, the culprits are the large firms (“The Big Four”) who are alleged to be on a rampage.

I have to choose my words carefully as I have been privileged to hear only the grievances of those who are enraged by the nonchalance of the Nigerian government over a matter which they consider life-threatening, literally.

The alternative is to close their firms and become taxi-drivers, newspaper vendors, money-doublers, snake-charmers, drug-pushers, or political hustlers.

The litany of woes by the aggrieved parties is monumental. They are totally excluded from the banking sector. Even the few publicly quoted companies which they audit have been “hijacked.” It is the same story regarding local companies which are sourcing funds from international agencies. The funding agencies apparently insist that only accounts audited by international firms would be acceptable!! This has led to the breakup of longstanding audit engagements with the prospect of imminent collapse of the local auditing firms.

To further compound matters, the Regulating Agencies appear to have pitched their tent with the “Big Four” to the exclusion of all others. What is even more galling is that regardless of the clear prescriptions of the “Local Content Policy” of the Federal Government which specifically obliges oil and gas companies to hire local auditors (“ownership by Nigerians”), local auditors are having a tough battle regarding patronage by oil and gas companies.

Even more appalling is the cavalier manner, in which at the slightest excuse, those local firms who encourage their clients to play by the rules are promptly dumped (or poached by the predators or “Ambulance Chasers”!!).

Regulatory agencies
This is a highly sensitive matter and those who have been protesting are utterly devastated by the (alleged) indifference of the relevant regulatory agencies – Corporate Affairs Commission; Department of Petroleum Resources; Central Bank of Nigeria; Nigerian Deposit Insurance Corporation; Financial Reporting Council of Nigeria; Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation; Nigerian Extractive Transparency Initiative (NEITI); Nigerian Communication Commission (NCC); Federal Inland Revenue Service (FIRS); and ultimately the Ministry of Justice as well as the Ministry of Trade and Investment.

Now the die is cast. The angry (and aggrieved) chartered accountants have decided to grab the bull by the horns or at least go down fighting in a blaze of glory.

They have hired the services of an eminent firm of lawyers to champion their cause through the labyrinth of legal processes. However, they have gone further to send petitions to the President and Commander-In-Chief of the Armed Forces, Dr Goodluck Jonathan; The Vice-President, Alhaji (Arc) Namadi Sambo; The President of the Senate, Senator David Mark; The Speaker of the House of Representatives, Alhaji Aminu Waziri Tambuwal; the National Security Adviser, Col Sambo Dasuki; Minister of Finance and Coordinating Minister for the Economy, Dr(Mrs.) Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala; The Minister of Justice & Attorney-General of the Federation, Mr Mohammed Adoke SAN; Governor, Central Bank of Nigeria, Mallam Sanusi Lamido Sanusi; Mr Olusegun Aganga, Minister of Trade & Industry; Minister of Petroleum Resources, Mrs Diezani Allison-Madueke; Director-General Corporate Affairs Commission,

Alhaji Bello Muhmad; Director-General Financial Reporting Council, Mr Jim Obazee; and the President, The Institute of Chartered Accountants of Nigeria, Alhaji Kabir Muhammed, The President, Nigerian Stock Exchange, Alhaji Aliko Dangote; and The Chairman, Security and Exchange Commission, Dr. Suleyman Abdu Ndanusa.

Each letter/petition has been skillfully crafted by the lawyer who is handling the brief for the petitioners. Long ago, Nigerian lawyers closed the door to “international firms” and have grown by leaps and bounds. There is a lesson for all of us there!!

In any case when you decode the petition, it is tantamount to asking for the declaration of a State of Emergency for Chartered Accountants.

Bashorun JK Randle is a former President of the Institute of Chartered Accountants of Nigeria (ICAN) and former Chairman of KPMG Nigeria and Africa Region. He is currently the Chairman, JK Randle Professional Services.