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Auditor-General’s office uncovers over N9.424bn illegal expenditure by NASS management

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THE Office of the Auditor-General of the Federation (oAuGF) has indicted the management of the National Assembly and the National Assembly Service Commission for embarking on an unexplained expenditure amounting to N9.424 billion in the 2019 financial year.

About N5.521 billion of such expenditure was credited to the House of Representatives in five different audit queries, N3.595 billion credited to the Senate in seven audit queries, while N307.676 million was credited to the National Assembly Service Commission in two audit queries.

Other audit queries include: over N1.595 billion car loan, N2.250 billion paid as running cost to members of the House of Representatives without requisite documents as well as non-remittance of N1.718 billion Value Added Tax (VAT) and Withholding Tax (WHT) into Federal Government’s treasury as provided by extant financial regulations.

The audit queries were contained in the Auditor General of the Federation annual report on non-compliance/internal control weaknesses issues in ministries, departments and agencies of the Federal Government of Nigeria for the year ended December 31, 2019.

The report with reference AuGF/AR.2019/02, addressed to the Clerk to the National Assembly and dated September 15, 2021 was signed by the Auditor-General of the Federation, Mr Adolphus Aghughu.

The oAuGF in the report also queried the sum of N2.550 billion granted to members of the House of Representatives as running costs between July and December 2019 without evidence to show what the funds were used for, neither was the money retired.

It also said that the sum of N258 million was given to 59 members of staff of the House of Representatives, while another N107.912 million was given to two member of staff for repairs and maintenance of unspecified residential quarters, thereby denying government the statutory Value Added Tax (VAT) and Withholding Tax (WHT) to the tune of N10,791,296 that would have accured if the work had been awarded to contractors.

The AuGF report also queried the sum of N1,594,807,097.83 paid to revenue authorities between February and December 2019 as PAYE (six members), car Ioan (five members) and Housing loan (six members) without acknowledgment receipts from the relevant revenue authorities.

It also queried the payment of N1,010,598,610.97 from the salary account of the House of Representatives without payment vouchers as required by law, while asking the clerk to the National Assembly to provide explanation for the irregularities and ensured that the amount involved is returned to government treasury.

It indicted the National Assembly Service Commission for failure to retire about N31.927 million cash advance granted to 59 members of staff of the commission as well as failure to remit one percent stamp duty amounting to N276,749,014.68.

It said further that about N219.645 million deducted as housing loan from some senators were not remitted.

It said “the sum of N219,645,567.08 was deducted from 107 senators’ salary arrears between July and December 2019 as housing loans, and there was no evidence to show that the amount was remitted to the Treasury.”

It also said that N123.320 million and N176.267 million deducted from senators salary arrears between July and December 2019 as vehicle loans and Pay as You Earn (PAYE) from staff salaries respectively were remitted to the appropriate authority.

The OAuGF also queried the non-remittance of total sum N277.411 deducted as VAT and WHT from services rendered to the Federal Inland Revenue Services (FIRS), while the office of the clerk failed to present payment vouchers amounting to N1,718,130,630.24 for audit verification.

In the same vein, the report said N657.757 million was paid for the supply of vehicles and other office equipment in 16 payment vouchers that were not cleared by internal audit as required by law before such payments were made, while another N423.370 million was paid for the supply of utility vehicles and production of National Assembly logo between August and November 2019 from the capital account with no relevant documents.

The House Committee on Public Account has, however, summoned the Clerk to the Nation Assembly, Amos Ojo, to appear before the committee to respond to the audit queries.

Chairman of the Committee, Honourable Wole Oke, said before the House went on Christmas break, the clerk should appear before the committee to respond to the auditor-general’s queries.



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Governors, Labour kick as NNPC presents N3tr subsidy bill to FEC

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The controversies surrounding continued payment of fuel subsidy may not have ended as the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) Limited, yesterday, presented a bill of N3 trillion for deliberations at the Federal Executive Council (FEC) meeting chaired by President Muhammadu Buhari.

According to the Minister of Finance Budget and National Planning, Zainab Ahmed, N3 trillion is the amount required to continue to subsidise petroleum products for the 18 months extension recently approved by the Presidency.

Ahmed, who broke the news to State House correspondents, explained that FEC considered the request so as to make additional funding provisions that will enable government meet incremental fuel subsidy payment in the 2022 budget.

According to her, only N443 billion is currently available in the 2022 budget meant to accommodate subsidy from January to June.

Buttressing the position of the government, she said with current realities on ground, especially the poverty rate on the part of Nigerians, the NNPC presented a request for N3 trillion to the Ministry of Finance for 2022.

“What this means is that we have to make incremental provision of N2.557 trillion to be able to meet subsidy requirement, which is averaging about N270 billion per month.

“In 2021, the actual under-recovery that has been charged to the Federation was N1.2 trillion, which means an average of N100 billion, but in 2022, because of the increased crude oil price per barrel in the global market, now at $80 per barrel, and also because an NNPC’s assessment shows that the country is consuming 65.7 million litres per day, we will end up with an incremental cost of N3 trillion in 2022.

“Having taken into account the current realities; increased hardship in the population, heightened inflation and also that measures needed to be taken to enable a smoother exit from the fuel subsidy regime are not yet in place, it was agreed by Council that it is desirable to exit fuel subsidy at a conducive time.”

She revealed that the Council directed the ministry to approach the National Assembly for an amendment to the fiscal framework, including the budget.

BUT the Nigeria Governors’ Forum (NGF) and the leadership of the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) have blamed the NNPC for the mismanagement of the proceeds accruing from oil.

They have also resolved to enter into working partnership to investigate consumption and distribution figures released by NNPC regarding petroleum products. The NGF disclosed this, yesterday, at its meeting with labour leaders, led by NLC President, Comrade Ayuba Wabba, to deliberate on the fuel subsidy removal issue.

A statement by NGF’s media adviser, AbdulRazaque Bello Barkindo, disclosed that “both parties agreed that the lacuna in the subsidy removal agenda was hidden in the untruths bandied by the administrators of the subsidy, particularly the NNPC, which both groups identify to be at the forefront of the mismanagement of the proceeds that accrued therein.”

Delivering his opening remarks at the meeting, which was also attended by the Trade Union Congress (TUC) president and a host of other leaders of organised labour in the country, NGF chairman and governor of Ekiti State, Kayode Fayemi, argued that the nation’s economy is at the precipice and that it has become necessary for the two groups to carefully verify all NNPC’s estimates, to ensure that whatever action is taken on subsidy will be to the benefit of the people and not a few wealthy individuals and their cronies.

The NGF chairman, who led a delegation of governors Simon Bako Lalong of Plateau State and Godwin Obaseki of Edo State, to the meeting, stressed that governors cannot ignore the economics of petroleum, arguing that all the countries surrounding Nigeria, including Niger, Mali, Cameroun and Ghana have their fuel pump price at the equivalent of a U.S. dollar.

“Nigeria has a pump price that is far less than a dollar and is uncomfortable with the removal of subsidy until the challenge of what the NNPC is telling the country is confronted frontally.

“We need a partnership with the NLC to confront the challenges of what the NNPC is about, because there is a lot of fraud in the consumption and distribution figures that the country is getting and we can only move forward if the NLC engages all those who are knowledgeable in the field like PENGASSAN to conduct a thorough research into the sector before any further action is taken on subsidy,” Fayemi said.

He added that only about eight states are benefitting directly from the subsidy while all the others have to contend with the situation on their own.

Commenting, Obaseki warned that the country has a choice of continuing to behave “like Father Christmas (Santa Claus) or take concrete actions on a problem that is permanently with us rather than throwing away N3 trillion on subsidy.”

The Plateau governor, who like Obaseki, joined the meeting virtually, recalled that the NGF had spent three years on this matter. He stated: “We must find options and create opportunities that address the hardships that stare our people in the face.”

The unionists, according to the statement, argued that the conflicting figures that always came from managers of the petroleum sector had always tended towards inefficiency, which have remained, and to organised labour, completely objectionable.

Wabba and TUC president, Quadri Olaleye, wondered why the subsidy issue had always been shrouded in secrecy on the part of government.

Also, NLC National Deputy President, Comrade Bello Ismail, has advised the Federal Government against any attempt to increase the pump price of petroleum products during the tenure of this administration that would terminate in 2023.

Ismail, who addressed Kaduna State workers on the outcome of the suspension by the Federal Government of its initial plan to hike the pump price of petrol, said labour would continue to watch any action of the Buhari administration and ensure it did not increase pump price of fuel in future.

MEANWHILE, the Presidency, yesterday, reiterated the concerns of the Organised Private Sector (OPS) that Nigeria would have to pay a price to continue subsidising petrol, adding that the country may be left with no other choice than to continue borrowing to shoulder its fiscal overhead.

The President’s Special Adviser on Media and Publicity, Femi Adesina, said this when he featured on Channels Television’s Sunrise Daily programme yesterday. He said petrol is not deregulated by the Federal Government, as the price is sold at between N162 and N165/litre at filling stations, far lower than the actual cost of the commodity.

In June 2021, the Group Managing Director of NNPC, Mele Kyari, stated that petrol price should be more than N280/litre, while the commodity had been subsidised and sold at N162/litre since last year.

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Gunmen kidnap Ex-President Jonathan’s cousin in Bayelsa

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Former President Goodluck Jonathan’s cousin, Jephthah Robert, has been abducted by gunmen at his residence in Yenagoa, Bayelsa State capital.

It was learnt that the abductors had yet to contact the family since his kidnap on Monday.

The police spokesman in Bayelsa State, SP Asinim Butswat, who confirmed the abduction, said they were intensifying efforts to rescue the victim and arrest the abductors.

Though the detail of the abduction was sketchy, the rate of kidnappings in Bayelsa State has been on the increase recently.

Just last Monday, the state Commissioner for Trade and Investment, Federal Otokito, regained freedom after spending five days in the kidnappers’ den.

He was said to have been kidnapped by the cartel operating illegal refineries in his community for trying to obstruct their operations.

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FEC okays proposed amendments to 2022 budget

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The Federal Executive Council has approved a proposed amendment to the 2022 budget following the initial adjustments made by the National Assembly to the proposal submitted by President Muhammadu Buhari in 2021.

The Minister of Finance, Budget and National Planning, Zainab Ahmed, said the approved amendments to be transmitted to the National Assembly would request to repeal clauses 10 and 11 concerning the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission and the Nigerian Financial Intelligence Unit operations in the 2022 budget and as well restore what the lawmakers had deleted amounting to N103bn.

She said: “Clause 10 is referring to a provision that has been made that will enable the EFCC and NFIU be able to take 10% of whatever collections that they recover.

“We’re asking for that to be repealed because this is in direct contrast to the Acts of these two agencies and also it is in contravention of the Fiscal Responsibility Act and the Finance Act 2021.

“Clause 11, on the other hand, is a provision that has been made that says that the Nigeria embassies and missions are now authorized by this Appropriation Act to expend funds allocated to them under Capital Components without the need to seek approval of the Federal Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

She said FEC also ratified an instrument on diplomatic relations between Nigeria and South Africa with the coming of Africa’s Continental Free Trade Agreement.

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