By Henry Umoru
ABUJA— THE Senate has given Acting President Yemi Osinbajo a two-week ultimatum to direct all government agencies that have failed to submit their 2017 budget proposals to the National Assembly in line with extant laws for consideration and approval, to do so or the affected agencies would be made to face the full wrath of the law.
The Senate also promised that once it gets the budget, it will make it public, work on it diligently as well as turn it around as quickly as possible.
Similarly, the senate has summoned the Federal Inland Revenue Service, FIRS, Central Bank of Nigeria, CBN, National Petroleum Investment Management Services, NAPIMS, Chevron Nigeria Limited and Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation, NNPC, over allegation contained in a petition accusing them of tax irregularities.
The summon was issued, yesterday, by the Senator Magnus Abe (APC, Rivers) led Senate Adhoc Committee on the alleged fraud against Chevron.
Speaking shortly after the inauguration of the committee by Senate President, Bukola Saraki, who was represented by Senate Minority Leader, Godswill Akpabio, Senator Abe noted that the committee will not be biased in its investigation, vowing to uncover truth behind the $5 billion Tax fraud allegation against Chevron.
People can’t spend money without approval —Saraki
Meanwhile, speaking while giving acting President Osinbajo a two-week ultimatum to direct all government agencies to submit their budgets for consideration and approval, the Senate President, Saraki, noted that Nigeria as a country fighting corruption, cannot continue “this way where people will be spending money without approval, without appropriations. It must stop, it will stop and is going to stop from now.”
The Senate ultimatum, was sequel to a motion by Senate Deputy Leader, Senator Bala Ibn Na’ Allah (APC, Kebbi State).
Senator Na’Allah in his presentation, said, the “Senate is worried about the non-submission of the 2017 budget proposal by Statutory Corporations to the National Assembly.
“Senate notes that section 21 (1-3) of the Fiscal Responsibility Act stipulates that: “The government corporations and agencies and government-owned companies listed in the Schedule to this Act shall, not later than six months from the commencement of this Act and for every three financial years, thereafter, and not later than the end of the second quarter of every year, cause to be prepared and submitted to the Minister, their Schedule estimates of revenue and expenditure for the next three financial years.
“Each of the bodies referred to in sub-section (1) of this section shall submit to the Minister not later than the end of August in each financial year: (a) an annual budget derived from the estimates submitted in pursuance of subsection (1) of this section and (b) projected operating surplus which shall be prepared in line with acceptable accounting practices.
“The Minister shall cause the estimates submitted in pursuance of subsection (2) of this section to be attached as part of the draft Appropriation Bill to be submitted to the National Assembly.
“Senate observes that non-compliance with the provisions of the Fiscal Responsibility Act constitutes abuse of power and economic sabotage aimed at frustrating the current economic measures being taken by the current administration to address the economic recession.”
In his remarks, Senate President, Saraki, noted that the action must be taken very seriously against the backdrop that the huge amount of money independent revenue gets, exceeds what the country gets from oil, saying: “Let me thank the Deputy Leader for this very important motion. Truly, this motion is at the heart of the fight against corruption and it is very important as we see that independent revenue, the amount of money independent revenue gets even exceeds what we get from oil revenue.
“Clearly we have made our position that based on this amendment, these agencies must get their budgets to us in two weeks and committee chairmen, I want to appeal that once we get the budget, ensure that we make it public, very diligently and try to turn it around as quickly as possible.”
Earlier in his contribution, Deputy Senate President, Ike Ekweremadu said: “The constitution is supreme and its provisions shall have a binding force on all authorities and persons throughout Nigeria. It goes further in section 80(2) that money shall be withdrawn from the consolidated revenue fund of the federation except…Section 80(3) no money shall be withdrawn.
“We are here talking about responsibility of governance. There cannot be any hard responsibility than Fiscal Responsibility because that is the beginning of all evils; we must begin to ensure that we live by the laws we make for ourselves. If we say that ministers are supposed to send the estimates of various agencies under them with the Appropriation Act of each year, that has to be done.”
Also in his contribution, Senator George Sekibo (PDP, Rivers East) said: “I have a question: if a man who is to give the law fails the law, what happens to him?”
Among the agencies that have to submit their budget proposals for approval of the National Assembly are the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation, NNPC, Central Bank of Nigeria, CBN, Bureau of Public Enterprises, BPE, National Agency for Science and Engineering Infrastructure, NASEI and Nigerian Airspace Management Agency, NAMA.
Other agencies are the Nigerian Shippers’ Council, NSC, Securities and Exchange Commission, SEC, Nigerian Tourism Development Corporation, NTDC, National Communications Commission, NCC, National Agency for Food and Drugs Administration and Control, NAFDAC, Nigerian Customs Service, NCS, National Broadcasting Commission, NBC, among others.
Meanwhile, on the summoned oil companies over the $5 billion fraud allegation, Senator Abe noted that they were expected to appear before the ad-hoc committee to defend the allegation. “We are not going into the investigative hearing with any pre-judgement, the truth must be uncovered. I can tell you that we will be fair thorough and quick in our assignment.”
Earlier in his remark, Senate President, Bukola Saraki urged the committee to be independent in its assignment and be fair to all parties concerned.
It will be recalled that Dr. George Uboh of the Panic Alert Security System, PASS, had petitioned the Senate over alleged $5 billion fraud at the Chevron.
Uboh had alleged that between 2001-2002, Chevron evaded tax to the tune of over $343 million through over bloating of its operational costs under Petroleum Profit Tax, using Carry Agreement with NNPC as a cover when such agreement never existed with the company.
Also yesterday, the Senate raised alarm that most university administrators cook up figures in the yearly accounts as a way of evading payment of operating surpluses running into hundreds of millions to government as revenue in line with the Constitution and the Fiscal Responsibility Act.
Speaking, yesterday, during the committee’s investigative hearing of Federal University of Technology, Minna, Niger State, Chairman of the Senate Ad Hoc Committee on Misuse , Non Remittance and Fraudulent Acts of Internally Generated Revenue, IGR, by government agencies, Senator Solomon Adeola (APC, Lagos West), said so far, all the 12 federal universities that have appeared before the committee presented fictitious documents with contradictory figures.
According to him, they engage in the act to justify why they did not remit a kobo to the Consolidated Revenue Fund of the Federal Government as required by extant laws.
Senator Adeola said: “It is regrettable that the financial management of our universities is in such a parlous state with many of them like the FUT, Minna presenting obviously fictitious documents and figures all in an attempt to exonerate themselves from non remittances of revenue generated while completely expending all revenues generated on sometimes, frivolous expenditure heads.
“I believe there is serious fraud going on in FUT, Minna which will be revealed as they cannot reconcile the figures in their financial presentation.”
The senator wondered the type of education that these universities will be giving to the students if the universities are run with the Vice Chancellor, not been able to recollect the number of students in his school, the number of bed spaces available and paid for by students as well as present development levy fees.
Earlier the VC, while responding to a question by Senator Bayero Nafada, said he does not have the exact figure of students in the school as well as the number of bed spaces for which the sum of N12,000 was being collected per annum.
So far, 12 universities have appeared before the committee, while all of them pleaded to go back and prepare a better account of their finances in the last years.