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Senate Queries CBN, Accountant-General over Failure to Account for ₦596bn Ecological Fund

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The Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) and the Accountant General of the Federation on Thursday when they appeared before the Senate Committee on Public Accounts could not explain how ₦596 billion ecological fund was spent from 1999 to 2015.

While the accountant-general said the fund was domiciled in the apex bank, and that the money has been invested, the CBN pleaded for more time to submit records of the funds.

By asking for the records, the committee had acted upon the report by the Auditor-General of Federation (AuGF), Anthony Ayine, that between 1999 and 2015, a total of ₦596 billion was transferred from the treasury into the ecological fund account without proper accounting.

Mr Ayine had said, contrary to the provision of Section 5(4) of the Revenue Allocation Act which requires that an agency be established to manage the ecological fund, no agency had been established to manage it.

Rather, he added, the National Committee on Ecological Problems (NCEP) is the body responsible for handling ecological problems in the country.

NCEP is domiciled under the Office of the Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF) and has its Chairman as the Minister for Environment, Housing and Urban Development.

Thereafter, the Senate committee chairman, Matthew Urhoghide, summoned the Secretary General of the Federation (SGF), Boss Mustapha, while also asking the CBN to submit the statement of ecological fund account to the committee.

“The Central Bank should come and furnish us with the statement of account of the Ecological Fund. The SGF should come and brief us on the statement of account of the Ecological Fund,” Mr Urhoghide said.

Other queries

Meanwhile, the Custom Service and the Federal Inland Revenue Service (FIRS) were also indicted for contravening Pension Reform Act, 2014, which requires them to remit 5 per cent of their contributory pension to the National Pension Commission (PenCom).

The report by the auditor-general had among other things called on the accountant-general to “provide his investment ledger meant for the funds,” explain the reason the two agencies failed to comply with the provisions of the act while also sanctioning them as due.

The accountant-general, Ahmed Idris, in response, said: “The noncompliance of the remittance of 5 per cent of the contributory pension (by the custom service, for instance) was as a result of insufficient funds. Also, I wish to state, as funding improves, the service will comply accordingly.”

“We always engage the agencies themselves on the basis of issues raised by the auditor-general of the federation. This is the response from the Custom service as documented. We don’t want to start changing their responses.

“It’s like we are answering their own questions. Nigeria Customs, with due respect, stands to explain their responses. We are here on their behalf and we are reading their responses. Their response is a very dishonest one. If you are capable of paying salaries, why should it be difficult for you to pay 5 per cent.”

Displeased about the response of the Customs Service, Chairman Urhoghide said the committee would not take noncompliance to an act of parliament by agencies. However, due to the absence of representatives from the Custom Service, the matter was stood down.

“It’s unfortunate that the Nigerian Customs would tell us this. This is a contributory pension for their own retirees and they say they don’t have the money to contribute,” a dissatisfied Mr Urhoghide said.

“In fact the two of them — Custom Service and FIRS — get 7 per cent and 4 per cent for their own operations and they say they don’t have the money.

“Pay 5 per cent so that you can secure the future of your entire workers and you say you don’t have the money? It’s totally untrue. When other little organizations are making their contributions, you are the ones saying you don’t have the money.”

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Just In: Police Nab Suspected Killer of Aso Rock Director

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Preliminary investigation into the suspected murder of Laetitia Naankang Dagan ‘f’, an Assistant Director with the Office of the Secretary to the Government of the Federation, by the Criminal Investigation Department of the FCT Police Command led to the arrest of one Edirin Ohonre ‘m’ who is suspected to have conspired with others now at large to perpetrate the crime.

This was a revelation in a press statement signed and released on Wednesday by the Police Public Relations Officer, DSP Anjuguri Manzah of the FCT Police Command.

The statement said the suspect, who is currently under interrogation, is assisting the team of police detectives with information that will lead to the arrest of the other suspects connected to the crime, that are now at large.

While commiserating with the family, friends and colleagues of the deceased on the unfortunate incident, the FCT Police Command is assuring members of the public that it has deployed relevant investigative tools to unravel the circumstances surrounding the victim’s unfortunate death and ensure the arrest and prosecution of suspects behind the heinous act.

The Command is urging members of the public to disregard insinuations making the rounds in some social media platforms, and also wish to appeal to the members of the public to desist from preempting the ongoing police investigation.

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Again, Customs CG Fails to Appear Before Senate Panel

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The Comptroller General of the Nigerian Customs Service, Hameed Ali, has failed to appear before the Senate Committee on Public Accounts despite several summons.

Asides previous invitation over the Customs audit report, Mr Ali was again summoned by the committee last week following an indictment of the Customs by the auditor-general’s report.

The report stated that the Nigerian Customs Service and the Federal Inland Revenue Service (FIRS) violated the Pension Reform Act 2014 which requires them to remit five per cent of their contributory pension to the National Pension Commission (PenCom).

The report by the auditor-general had among other things called on the accountant-general to “provide his investment ledger meant for the funds,” explain the reason the two agencies failed to comply with the provisions of the act while also sanctioning them as due.

Last week, the Accountant General of the Federation, Ahmed Idris, explained on behalf of the two.

“The noncompliance of the remittance of 5 per cent of the contributory pension (by the custom service, for instance) was as a result of insufficient funds. Also, I wish to state, as funding improves, the service will comply accordingly,” he said last week.

There was however, no representative from the Customs – hence the reason they were summoned again.

Reacting to his non-appearance, the chairman of the committee, Matthew Urhoghide, said the panel will “do a letter to the CG Customs that we are going to hold him responsible for the testimony given by the Accountant General.”

“His deliberate refusal to appear, (we) will take it that the accusations are correct and (we) are going to hold him responsible,” he said.

Ecology fund

Meanwhile, the panel on February 13 also queried the Central Bank of Nigeria and the office of the Accountant General Federation for deducting N596 billion from the Federation Account and transferring it to the ecological fund between 1999 and December 2015.

The Secretary General of the Federation (SGF), Boss Mustapha, was also summoned over matter.

Habiba Lawal, permanent secretary of the Office Ecological fund, located in the Office of the SGF, appeared before the committee on behalf of the SGF.

She explained that over the years, from 1984, there have been several ratios for allocations to the ecological fund from the federation account.

But presently, she explained, the ratio from the federation account is: federal government 1 per cent, state government 0.72 per cent, local government 0.60 per cent, a total of 2.32 per cent.

She said the allocations to state and local governments do not come directly to the ecological fund office but is shared directly at Federation Account Allocation Committee (FAAC) every month.

Speaking on how accruals to the federal government are spent, she said “the only thing the ecological fund office knows is what is in 1 per cent accruable to the federal government – of which our office is part of”.

“Within the one per cent meant for the federal government, the act setting up NEMA, gives them 20 per cent of the accruable of monthly basis from the ecological fund to NEMA to discharge it’s functions in addition to whatever appropriation they are given from the National Assembly.

“Also, the national agency for the great green wall also had an act that gives them 15 per cent of federal share from the ecological fund.

“The third layer which is new is the North East Development Commission which will start taking from the month of January and they will take 10 per cent of the federal government share of the ecological fund,” she said.

Ms Lawal also told the panel that the federal government’s allocation is not housed in the ecological fund office, but in the CBN under the custody of the office of the Accountant General of the Federation and the office of the Minister of Finance.

“So what comes to the ecological fund office in SGF’s office is the fund meant for the specific projects the president has approved. So if the president says the road from that door to that door should be done by the office of the ecological fund at the cost of N10.

“That approval is what I will send to the minister of finance who will process and send to the account general and then the SGF’s ecological fund account in CBN also will then be credited with the project funds. The ecological fund office cannot answer for the whole federation funds because it is not in our custody and our job is to implement these projects.”

The representatives of the office of the accountant general who appeared before the panel, requested for more time to prepare the necessary documents.

They were given two weeks by the committee.

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More Troubles in Aso Rock As Monguno Indicts Abba Kyari over Police Equipment Contract

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A lucrative contract for the procurement of defence equipment for the Nigeria Police Force appeared to have triggered the raging confrontation at the highest levels of the Buhari administration, PREMIUM TIMES can report.

Freshly obtained documents showed how the national security adviser, Babagana Monguno, tackled President Muhammadu Buhari’s chief of staff, Abba Kyari, for allegedly overriding a previous directive of the president in a contract to procure equipment for the police from the United Arab Emirates.

In the December 9, 2019 letter that was addressed to the police affairs minister and police inspector-general, Mr Monguno, a retired major-general, described Mr Kyari’s action as “reckless and irresponsible”, warning that it was capable of ridiculing Nigeria as an unserious nation before a reliable international partner.

Mr Monguno warned in the letter that Mr Kyari has been getting away with disregarding presidential orders to impose his own decisions — even though he had no constitutional power to issue directives on matters bordering on security. The NSA said only himself, as the head of multiple national security panels, and the defence minister have constitutional roles to act on security matters.

The documents appeared a part of a series of circulars issued between Mr Monguno and Mr Kyari between May and December 2019.

The first part of the documents to leak was first published by PREMIUM TIMES on Monday afternoon. It detailed how Mr Monguno accused Mr Kyari of hampering efforts to resolve insecurity in the country, sparking nationwide uproar and call for the president to take charge of his administration’s security measures.

The first memo also carried the same December 9, 2019 date, but was addressed to all crucial offices of national security coordination. The latest memo appeared to have been sent to inform the police affairs minister and the inspector-general on the background of the equipment and how Mr Kyari might be frustrating the procurement process.

It was not immediately clear which equipment were being procured by the Buhari administration from the Emirati, but Mr Monguno disclosed that the International Golden Group, a Dubai-based defence and security dealer, was the firm agreed between Mr Buhari and the UAE Crown Prince in 2016, the memo showed.

Neither the president nor anyone in his cabinet has commented on the crisis at the presidency since Monday. Mr Kyari and two presidential spokespersons, Femi Adesina and Garba Shehu, rejected requests for comments on the memo Monday afternoon. They also did not return similar requests based on the latest documents that shed additional light into the rancour.

Nigeria has been grappling with multiple security problems, most of which security experts have said should ordinarily be handled by the police. The military has been locked in a decade-long battle with Boko Haram insurgents ravaging the country’s northwestern flank and the neighbouring Niger, Cameroon and Chad.

Mr Buhari’s repeated promises to curtail insecurity have come short for the most part, despite billions spent on military procurement and capacity-building efforts.

Mr Monguno, who has continued to act as the NSA even though his appointment has not been renewed for Mr Buhari’s second term, has been at the centre of coordinating efforts to combat insecurity. But his labour, he said in the memo, has been regularly frustrated by Mr Kyari’s “meddlesomeness,” which has pitted the chief of staff to not just the NSA but other key administration officials over the years, including Vice-President Yemi Osinbajo.

The implication for the raging fall-out between the top aides of the president has dominated debates since the first memo was published on Monday. The opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) has demanded a thorough investigation into the fallout, lamenting its potential detriment to national security.

See documents below:

Additional documents on Monguno and Kyari face-off over police equipment contract
Additional documents on Monguno and Kyari face-off over police equipment contract
Additional documents on Monguno and Kyari face-off over police equipment contract
Additional documents on Monguno and Kyari face-off over police equipment contract
Additional documents on Monguno and Kyari face-off over police equipment contract
Additional documents on Monguno and Kyari face-off over police equipment contract
Additional documents on Monguno and Kyari face-off over police equipment contract
Additional documents on Monguno and Kyari face-off over police equipment contract.

Source: Samuel Ogundipe, Premium Times

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