By Levinus Nwabughiogu – Abuja
Accountant-General of the Federation, Ahmed Idris, Tuesday, said that his office proposed N36 million in the 2022 budget to combat antelopes, snakes and other reptiles that trouble them.
He also said that his office would incur extra charges in the payment of personnel attached to Nigeria’s foreign missions and embassies which will affect the proposed N410 to $1 dollar exchange rate by the federal government to in the budget to N425 to a dollar.
Idris made the disclosure at a budget defence session with the House of Representatives Committee on Finance.
The office proposed a total of N10.470 billion for the 2022 fiscal year.
But identifying N36 million earmarked for fumigation in the budget, the Committee Idris to defend it and offer more explanations, noting that the allocation to the item may be higher.
In his response, Idris explained that the office had other offices in the 36 States of the federation in addition to its zonal offices in the 6 geopolitical zones, the headquarters and a treasury academy in Abuja.
He said that the funds will help them to adequately fumigate especially the academy surrounded by bushes housing antelopes and snakes.
He said: “Cleaning and Fumigation which is proposed at about 36 million, we have offices in all the States of the federation. We have 6 zonal offices. We have our own headquarters.
“We have the federal treasury academy which is an institution with a.lot of bushes. Now, even at an average of one million per annum for fumigating these offices, I think that amount proposed is grossly low.
“The point I am trying to make is that the figure is not high. With 36 offices in all the States of the federation with 6 zonal offices, with our headquarters, with an institution which is bigger than most of the private universities we see with a lot bushes and forest because we occupy an expanse of land with about 70 to 80 hectares with buildings around, with snakes and other reptiles.
“There was even a time they were killing antelopes within our premises. They said they thought it was a lion.”
Similarly, the accountant-general also revealed that his office has taken the responsibility of paying foreign attaché which prompted a difference of “N15 to the official exchange rate of N410 to $1.
According to him, that was the reason their budget went up for the 2022 fiscal year.
The Chairman of the Committee, Hon. James Faleke had picked holes with the proposal, demanding explanations.
The development caused an exchange between both of them, with the Committee frowning at the proposal, saying the office of the AGF cannot flout the laws of the land.
However, the Committee resolved to invite the governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria, CBN, Goodwin Emefiele for more clarifications.
The session with Idris went thus:
Faleke: “You have been given additional responsibility for foreign attache. That responsibility was according to you was of course, performed by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs before now. And now, it is your responsibility.
“I would take you to Appendix B, where you put the names and the allowances. My concern is that yes you are paying the allowances in dollars. My concern is your exchange rate. You have put $425 to a naira. Mr President’s presentation is $410.
“Are you aware of that this, of course, does not fall in line with the presentation of Mr President to this National Assembly. So are you proposing an increase of exchange rate to 425?”
Idris: “The exchange rate issue is slightly higher because despite all these we say, we still encounter certain charges by CBN itself. There are charges by CBN. We cannot run away from that and it is obvious. Our records are there.
“We can verify these. Yes, the exchange rate is pegged at this, but CBN one way or the other, you have to pay a bit higher. Yes, lower than the black market rate and that is why we jacked it up slightly. We know that this is what is being approved.”
Faleke: “Accountant-General, your statement is very pregnant. If the law says 410 naira to a dollar, there is no reason for you or your agency to pay any anybody higher than that on an official assignment. And the CBN cannot flout the law of the land. Appropriation is a law. I think you need to get further clarifications on that.”
Idris: “Honestly, let me be clearer. Getting the funds right at official agreed exchange rate. But transmitting the funds at an associated cost of such transmittal, including some of the cost so-called, I don’t know, CBN incurs as the receiving bank and the corresponding bank, these are the elements that really account for some of these higher charges.
“They can be explained. They are real. In all honesty, anyway let me not go into too much of these. But that is it.
“There are some costs associated with transmitting the funds. Cost of transfer which is different from exchange rate at which you get your dollar.”
Faleke: “I don’t want to bug you, but it would be difficult to defend. Very difficult to defend.
“The cost of transfer will surely not be 15 naira to a dollar because what we are asking now is the difference of N15 to the 410.
“That is 425 to 410. No bank would charge such amount, 15 naira to a dollar. Your transfer is through the CBN. You are not using commercial bank. So, I don’t see reason why CBN…
“On this statement we would invite CBN to come and clarify. It is a very serious issue that if we are talking about controlling our inflation rate in this country and the cost of doing business or cost of governance and CBN would be charging double rate different from the actual approved rate, then that would be a serious issue.”
Idris: “We would also be in a position to give you details of these cost elements. So we know exactly what these costs represent. We would do that.”
The Accountant-General further highlighted the details of the 2022 budget.
“Our 2022 budget. For personnel cost, the office of the accountant-general as an office has a proposed budget of N4.341 billion.
“We also have another leg of personnel cost which it’s been introduced into our budget for the first time this year which is the foreign service personnel in all the Nigerian missions and embassies abroad which is also N4.747 billion.
“In total, we have N9.088 billion as personnel cost. It used to be with the ministry of foreign affairs but because of some administrative changes, this has now been shifted to our office and so, it is appearing for the first time.
“Our budget proposal for 2022 is N10.470 billion”, he said.