• NNPC, FAAN, NCAA, NIS, several ministries yet to comply
17 August 2015, Abuja – Following the directive by President Muhammadu Buhari last week and a follow-up memo from the Head of Service, Mr. Danladi Kisali, on the remittance of all government revenue to the Treasury Single Account (TSA) with the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), investigations have shown that several ministries, departments and agencies (MDAs) of the federal government were yet to comply with the directive by the weekend.
But despite the poor level of compliance, the presidency has set up a committee to recover all government properties — cars, houses, generating plants etc — which are yet to be turned in by the officials of the previous administration about three months after leaving office.
Comments by some of the agencies further revealed that they were ignorant of the circular from the Head of Service on the president’s directive.
Enquiries by THISDAY showed that critical agencies such as the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC), Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria (FAAN), Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA), Nigerian Immigration Service (NIS), Federal Mortgage Bank of Nigeria (FMBN) and Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) had either not complied or were still awaiting the circular on the directive.
Others which were still not compliant as at Friday, included the Federal Ministries of Environment, Health, Education, Trade & Investment, Agriculture and Rural Development, and Information, Nigerian Prison Service (NPS), tertiary institutions nationwide, university teaching hospitals and federal medical centres around the country.
Whereas NNPC was one of the primary targets of the federal government directive on the remittance of oil revenue to the Federation Account, its new Group Managing Director, Dr. Ibe Kachikwu, said last Thursday while briefing State House correspondents that “all that is being looked at because to run an oil company you need a lot of funds to do so.
“If you don’t, you will close down the corporation and the production system will close down. So we are looking at having merged the need for accountability and openness with the need to make sure that the industry also survives, you cannot throw away the baby with the bath water”.
Despite Kachikwu’s remarks, efforts to get NNPC’s spokesman Ohi Alegbe to provide clarity on the issue, hit a brick wall.
In the case of FAAN, the public affairs department of the agency informed. “Government has only made the pronouncement, the full guidance is not yet out. We have done the opening of accounts and asked our banks to move our money.
“We are going to issue statements to the banks; although they will not like it but this is a directive so has to be complied with before we look as the areas of concern.
“Government should know that we are doing business here, so for us to be effective, we need less of the bureaucracy and bottlenecks. But the objective is to put checks and balances in place. There will be initial hiccups but with time, we will find our bearing.”
In its response to enquiries, NCAA said: “When the policy came in the past, we were exempted because of the nature of the work we do. We are self-accounting like other aviation parastatals. We have not put anything in place yet, but meetings are taking place on the issue.”
The Accident Investigation Bureau (AIB), meanwhile, said: “We are not a revenue generating agency.”
When contacted, NIS said: “We have not started the process. There is a rumour that our Comptroller General has been removed.”
NCC’s Public Affairs Director, Mr. Tony Ojobo, said: “The process of compliance is still ongoing at the commission because of the new circular that was just received,” while his counterpart at Galaxy Backbone, Mr. Ginger, said he was awaiting briefing from his accounts department.
FMBN said it was still waiting for the circular on the directive, while the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development said there was no deadline for compliance.
The Ministries of Interior and Information, Nigerian Broadcasting Corporation (NBS), Nigerian Security and Civil Defence Corps (NSCDC), Nigerian Metrological Agency (NIMET) and the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) refused to respond to enquiries.
However, findings showed that several ministries and agencies had been compliant since 2012 while others became compliant in February this year following the directive of the Office of the Accountant General of the Federation.
These included the Ministries of Finance, Communications Technology, Niger Delta, Land and Housing and Federal Capital Territory (FCT), National Office for Technology Acquisition and Promotion (NOTAP), National Information Technology Development Agency (NITDA), NigComSat, Department of Petroleum Resources (DPR), Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA), Petroleum Products Pricing Regulatory Agency (PPPRA) and Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA).
Other agencies that had complied were Nigerian Inland Waterways Authority (NIWA), Maritime Academy of Nigeria (MAN), Nigerian Electricity Regulatory Commission (NERC), National Youth Service Corps (NYSC), Nigeria Deposit Insurance Corporation (NDIC), Bureau of Public Enterprises (BPE), Nigerian Export-Import Bank (NEXIM), Federal Inland Revenue Service (FIRS), CBN and Nigeria Customs Service (NCS).
As the country awaits the full compliance with the president’s directive, there are indications that President Buhari’s determination to recover all government’s assets — financial and physical — has led to the setting up of a committee made up of civil servants and security agencies to recover unreturned public assets from former political appointees who just left office.
Investigations revealed that the president upon assumption found to his dismay that many of the people who left office had yet to return government’s items in their possession.
“The president is determined to go after those people who have refused to return all government’s assets in their possession,” a source at the presidency said.
According to recent indications by the government, the quest for Nigeria’s looted funds will entail crossing borders and continents, to as far away as Switzerland and the United States of America.
The source revealed that a number of former government officials were still in possession of vehicles, buildings, generator sets and other entitlements that came with their previous positions.
Despite vacating their offices almost three months ago, many are yet to return these government properties.
During an informal chat with the media in Abuja, the Senior Special Assistant to the President (Media and Publicity), Malam Garba Shehu, confirmed this situation.
“That is precisely the case,” he said. “Even here at the Villa, there are cars and other property belonging to the government which are yet to be returned.”
But according to him, the Buhari administration would soon begin to demand the return of these assets. He emphasised that the aim was not to embarrass anyone but to return such properties to government.
“The properties belong to the Nigerian people,” he said. “We are not trying to humiliate anyone by asking them to return their cars or houses.”
When asked whether the state and local governments were facing similar challenges with retrieving government property from their predecessors, Shehu said that he was not in a position to confirm or deny this.
He added, however, that he would not be surprised if that was the case, as this attitude of holding on to government property even after leaving office must be a natural outcome of the culture of impunity that has prevailed in Nigeria over the past years of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) rule.
“But change has come,” he said. “That is why we have to do things differently now.”
He reiterated Buhari’s commitment to running an austere government that would save the Nigerian people millions in public funds.
“Imagine how much Nigeria will save by retrieving and re-using these government properties instead of purchasing new ones for new government officials,” he said.
– This Day