By Uche Amunike
The Nigerian Senate has made clear, their intention to arrest heads of federal government agencies that refuse to appear before it to defend queries given them by the Auditor-General of the Federation in his 2016, 2017 and 2018 reports.
This was made known by the Chairman, Senate Public Accounts Committee, Senator Matthew Urhoghide, Friday, while addressing journalists in Abuja.
He went on to say that the Senate had already taken the decision not to attend to the project proposals of the default agencies when looking at the 2022 appropriation bill.
He attested that the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency, NIMASA and the Nigerian Ports Authority, NPA, were the main culprits.
Urhoghide explained that the present account officers who were not in office when the infractions were called had no reasons to be worried because the panel will hold the particular occupant that committed the crime liable while passing its verdicts.
These were his exact words: ‘We have concluded deliberations on the 2015 report of the Auditor General and Senate and taken actions based on the submissions that we made at the Public Accounts Committee.’
‘Concerning the agencies that did not appear to defend the query issued against them by the OAuGF, we have their list and we have reported them to the Senate.’
‘The Senate in its strength and job description as an institution, will take the necessary steps that will lead to sanctions against the affected agencies of government.’
‘The agencies cannot be a law to themselves, part of the steps being taken by the Senate is not to attend to their appropriation this year.’
He further said, ‘For 2016, 2017 and 2018 AuGF reports that we are considering concurrently now, the erring agencies including the NPA, NIMASA, among others, we are going to make sure that they appear.’
‘It might border on embarrassing the accounting officers of those agencies. We are ready to issue warrants of arrest against them because I know the Senate President will be well disposed to signing a warrant of arrest particularly against the agencies found guilty of same offence when we were considering the 2015 report.’
‘If they want to repeat the same thing when we are considering the 2016 report, we won’t tolerate that. They cannot be spending government money and they would not want to account for it.’
‘We are carrying out a constitutional role as contained in section 85 (6&7). It is a provision that the agencies, including foreign missions, must account for the public funds that they spend.’
‘If they still refuse to come, it means that they have something to hide. They must be dragged out to give account.’
‘The erring agencies in their best interest should appear before the SPAC to answer queries that had been raised by the OAuGF.’
As it stands, it is alleged that the Managing Director of Nigerian Ports Authority has been asked to defend the sum of N10bn naira used for expenses while his NIMASA counterpart is expected to defend the N814 used for expenditure.