.Nigerian Hero

Former US President, Donald Trump had attempted to do what many African leaders do, which is to win elections by rigging.

He tried to circumvent the system using the power of incumbency to frustrate the American electoral process but failed simply because the strength of the United States is inherently located in its strong institutions.

In Africa, those who possess political and economic power can do and undo. They can as we do in Nigeria, draft the military into voting centres to achieve a ‘peaceful’ process notwithstanding subsisting judicial pronouncements illegalizing the act. Law enforcement agencies and even the judiciary are known to now and again help parties to swap election results.

A few days ago, there were allegations that many compromised operatives were rewarded with reappointment into our electoral body. Consequently, although Professor Mahmood Yakubu has since exhibited ample integrity in the management of elections in Nigeria, if the recent allegation against his Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) is true, the electoral body may have elements that could render nugatory all his innovations only because he is a strong man in a weak entity.

The picture just painted is, unfortunately, a common occurrence in most societal institutions in Nigeria. Many appointees in our public offices are usually led by the nose, while several others are victims of self-censorship, often demonstrating incapacity to do what is right. Instead, they take solace in doing what in their imagination can help them keep their jobs.

In fairness, it is difficult to ignore the dilemma of such persons who sacrifice their initiatives and discretion bearing in mind that the few resourceful persons in our clime are either unceremoniously removed or their appointments are never renewed. If so, where is Adolphus Aghughu Arhotomhenla, the new Auditor General of the federation coming from? The other day the office he leads did not only indict our Almighty National Assembly, they also touched our Police.

From where did he acquire this new vigour he is bringing to our audit arrangement? Let no one tell me that it is due to the fact that Aghughu’s authority flows directly from the Constitution without explaining why his predecessors in office failed to wear the same constitutional garment of autonomy and independence which they successively inherited since 1999.

For those who may not have followed the story of the new audit posture, it is necessary to recall what has happened so far. The Office of the Auditor General of the Federation (OAuGF) a few months ago exposed several improprieties in many government organizations through the instrumentality of the audit report for 2019. For lack of space, let’s highlight only three of the reports. First, it was reported that the House of Representatives spent over N5.2 billion at different intervals and on different projects, with no evidence to show what the funds were used for.

The House also granted advances of N258 million to 59 staff and went ahead to grant fresh advances to the same staff when they were yet to retire the previous grant.

Again, another sum of N107 million was said to have been granted to two staff for “repairs and maintenance of unknown residential quarters.” Apart from the fact that no evidence was provided on request to show that the advances were retired, the Federal Government was reportedly deprived of the statutory Value Added Tax and Withholding Tax of N10.7 million accruable if the work had been awarded to contractors.

This seems to suggest that our legislators who always harassed others in the name of transparency and good governance are themselves found wanting.

In the case of the Police, the report disclosed that about 178,459 different types of arms and ammunition got missing from the Police armoury in 2019 without any trace or formal report on their whereabouts.

The figure which was made up of88,078 AK-47 rifles, 3,907 assorted rifles and pistols from different formations nationwide could not be accounted for. This no doubt calls for concern considering the daily calls for an increase in Police Budget which people can now imagine would be used to repurchase disappearing weapons.

The Police hierarchy was also indicted for expending the sum of N3,271,439,688:30 as payment for the irregular award of contracts.

The figure did not only exceed the approval threshold of the Police leadership; no evidence of project execution was presented to the auditors on demand.

The Police Force was also faulted for paying the sum of N924.985 million for eleven (11) contracts in some selected Commands and Formations in the country without evidence of project execution.

In addition, 10 contracts worth N1,136,715,200.00 were reportedly awarded to a single proprietor in the name of different companies while the details of the three companies were found to be the same.

The third of our highlights which also involved the Police has to do with irregularities in the nation’s public personnel payroll system. Here, the report listed 2,605 personnel of the Nigeria Police Force, who had spent 35 years in service and were due for retirement but still retained in the payroll data sets referred to as the Integrated Personnel and Payroll Information System (IPPIS).

At the Ahmadu Bello University (ABU), Zaria, some 996 names of workers were repeated in the nominal rolls, while records of 178 employees at the Federal Road Safety Corps (FRSC) were also repeated.

The same breach which was recorded in other government agencies totalled Seven thousand, and sixteen (7,016) staff in the Nigerian Correctional Services as well as the ministries of Defence, Agriculture, Education and Works.

It is surprising that unlike what happens in many other countries, the introduction of the IPPIS technology to wipe out irregularities is yet to show any efficacy in Nigeria.

With the performance of Adolphus Aghughu so far, it is not irrational to agree with those who believe that our auditors can serve as the most virulent anti-corruption marshals in Nigeria.

As President Muhammadu Buhari opined in Benin only last month at the conference of Auditors-General in Nigeria (COAGN), efforts to enthrone good governance and accountability across ties of government could not yield the desired positive results if auditors-general did not stand up to play their constitutional role as the people’s watchdog.

Also Read:

Sylvester Oromoni: Aggrieved persons should visit Coroner Inquest, court — CP Lagos advises

There are 73 Auditors-General in the country, made up of one at the federal level and 36 for states and another 36 in charge of local government accounts and finances. With such a large number of auditors, a figure larger than those of the rest of Africa combined, Nigeria ought to be able to build a formidable audit framework that would be hard to experiment with even by politicians who are in search of material gains often subvert due process. But will our auditors-general in the states rise up to embraceAdolphus Aghughu’s posture?

Nonetheless, we cannot expect auditors to perform magic if the institutional environment is not conducive to excellent performance.

Taking the case of the office of the Auditor- General of the federation, for instance, we agree with the case for better office space for improved performance made months back by Senate President, Ahmed Lawan when he argued that “a practice where some of the Auditors are resident in organizations they are supposed to audit is not acceptable.

We need to do a lot more to support the Auditor-General for the Federation to be more effective and efficient.” Indeed, the daily interactions between auditors and regular staff of organizations where they are domiciled can adversely affect their freedom to report issues that are critical of such organizations.

At the same time, we agree that in order to ensure that the office of the auditor-general is also subject to checks, the National Assembly can make laws for the watchdog to also be watched.

This cannot derogate from our commendations for the admirable performance of Adolphus Aghughu who has shown that if we have strong institutions, our numerous ad-hoc bodies that often complicate the national challenges they were set up to resolve would be superfluous.

Vanguard News Nigeria

Subscribe to our youtube channel


Comments expressed here do not reflect the opinions of vanguard newspapers or any employee thereof.