Alhaji Umar Ahmad Balarabe is an accomplished professional and distinguished public officer who has continued to ensure excellence and transparency in his position as the Accountant General of Sokoto State. His ability to affect people’s lives through his professional knowledge and kindness has endeared him to all and this singular factor opens doors for him wherever he goes. Without mincing words, he is a gifted administrator who uses his skills, intellect and uncommon brilliance to manage the Sokoto State treasury for proper accountability.
Having obtained a Teachers’ Grade II certificate in 1980, he proceeded to the College of Administration, Sokoto after which he bagged a diploma in public accounting and auditing from The Polytechnic Sokoto and later a Bachelor degree in Management as well as a Master in Business Administration from Usmanu Danfodiyo University, Sokoto.
In the course of his professional service to his state and the Nigerian nation, Balarabe has held many leadership positions which includes; accountant, internal auditor and bursar at the College of Administration, Sokoto. He was a principal accountant at the Sokoto State Primary Education Board, Director of Finance at Sokoto State Fire Service, Director of Finance, Admin and General Services at the Cabinet Office, Sokoto; Deputy Director and subsequently Director of Treasury at the Ministry of Finance, Sokoto before he was duly elevated to his current position. Aside from these positions, he has also worked as a part-time lecturer for over 21 years at The Polytechnic, Sokoto and Usmanu Danfodiyo University.
Intelligent and insightful, he speaks about his profession with great delight and authority which makes one come to the conclusion that he is a colossus in the accounting profession. He applauded the Institute of Chartered Accountants of Nigeria (ICAN) for putting in place controls and regulations that have helped to solidify the accounting profession in Nigeria.
According to him, “there are many professional codes and ethics that must be complied with by the professionals in practice. For instance, ICAN recommends practice review checklist, framework reporting on internal controls over financial reporting, audit checklist and quality control of audit. Right now, the institute has developed what is known as ICAN Accountability Index purposely to encourage greater accountability and transparency in fiscal and public finance management practices in Nigeria by fast-tracking implementation of IPSAS Accrual Basis in the three tiers of government and to serve as a tool of enlightenment and advocacy on public sector accountability and public finance management for the citizenry among others. ICAN has been doing well in regulating the practice of accounting and also in the training of members. It supports annual Accountants Academic Conference and has fantastic study packs in collaboration with ACCA with solid contents by bringing in contemporary issues like integrated reporting.”
Given his vast experience in the accounting profession which has seen him present intellectual papers at conferences within and outside the shores of Nigeria, Balarabe is of the opinion that Nigeria is blessed with intelligent professional accountants but lacking the exposure to modern training procedures particularly in the areas of practical information technology and proper understanding of IFRS and IPSAS and their applications which puts them below their counterparts in the western world.
“Unfortunately, the Financial Reporting Council is not helping matters in terms of providing support in the provision of current accounting materials, adequate training and international collaborations. Professionals in the foreign countries have a conducive environment, training materials and good collaborations between academic and professional bodies, a good understanding of accounting and audit software, practical training on contemporary issues, good research methods as well as developing a specialization in new areas of accounting. Another issue of concern is the fact that we adopted all the regulations of IFRS and IPSAS which are all foreign bodies without considering our political, academic and socio-economic structures. Therefore, I will say our foreign counterparts are better”, he said.
Professional par excellence, the astute Accountant General of Sokoto State is a member of the Nigeria Institute of Management, a fellow of the Institute of Certified Public Accountants of Nigeria and fellow of the Institute of Treasury Management. He is also a member of the Federation Accounts Allocation Committee amongst several other committees at the state and federal levels. His commitment and dedication to service have seen him win accolades within and outside professional circles.
He urged upcoming professionals in accounting to always follow the regulations of the profession, obtain practical training from audit firms and also get all necessary professional certifications.