The Minister of Transportation, Chibuike Rotimi Amaechi, recently set up an 11-man panel to investigate the activities of the Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA) from 2016 till date following the alleged non-remittance of about N165 billion to the Federation Account by the agency under the leadership of Ms. Hadiza Bala-Usman. In the memo entitled:”Remittance of the Operating surplus to the Consolidated Revenue Fund Account by the NPA from 2016 to date,” the minister alleged, among other things, that the yearly remittance of operating surpluses by the NPA from 2016-2020, had been far short of the actual amount it was supposed to remit to the government.
The shortfall, he said, was in excess of N165billion. In response to the petition, President Muhammadu Buhari was said to have given his approval to probe the non-remittance of the said amount, and other infractions. Other allegations against Bala-Usman include insubordination to lawful authority, gross violation of procurement process, administrative lapses leading to non-remittance of Value Added Tax deductions running into billions of naira and in foreign currencies, to the Federal Inland Revenue Service (FIRS), as well as extra budgetary expenditures on hotel accommodation. However, Bala-Usman has denied all the allegations.
The chairman of the probe panel is the Director, Maritime Services, Ministry of Transportation, Mr. Suleiman Auwalu, while the Deputy Director, Legal of the same ministry, Mr. Gabriel Fan, is the secretary. The panel will investigate the administrative policies adopted by Bala-Usman and confirm compliance with extant laws and rules from 2016 till date.
It will also examine the termination of various contracts in the agency and confirm compliance with the terms of the respective contracts, court rulings and presidential directives. The panel will proffer suggestions that will strengthen the operations of NPA and forestall any financial leakage in future.
The embattled NPA boss, Bala-Usman, has been suspended from office to enable the administrative panel of inquiry carry out the probe without undue interference, while Mohammed Koko has replaced her in acting capacity.
We decry the reported leakages in key government revenue agencies in recent times and call for a thorough investigation of their operations. Since the allegations on the NPA under the watch of Bala-Usman are weighty enough, the matter must be thoroughly investigated. We urge the panel to be diligent and fair to all the parties concerned. Anyone found culpable must be sanctioned in accordance with the law. The investigation must not, however, be a source of witch-hunt. The panel should be dispassionate, upright thorough and above board. If the NPA boss is found not guilty, she should return to her job and an apology tendered.
Above all, it is important to tighten the loose ends in all revenue generating agencies. The step to hold all MDAs accountable to the funds they generate must start with a transparent examination of their books and rein in those who have failed to remit collected revenue to the Federation Account.
Beyond the NPA probe, the government should also beam its searchlight on other key revenue generating agencies. These include the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC), the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Authority (NIMASA), Nigeria Customs Service (NCS), the Federal Inland Revenue Service (FIRS) and others to ascertain the extent of financial leakages in them.
To stem the rot in these revenue agencies, the Office of the Auditor General of the Federation (AUGF) should henceforth focus more attention on financial transactions of big revenue generating agencies instead of beaming its searchlight on the smaller ones. The reported non-remittance of about N3trillion by key MDAs to the Federation Account is unacceptable.
The recurring financial malfeasance in key government agencies is deplorable. Our position is that no revenue generating agency should be excluded from remitting funds generated by it to the Federation Account. A recent AUGF report found that small agencies are as guilty as the big ones in defaulting to remit revenues to the Federation Account. A thorough revenue and expenditure profiles of all revenue generating agencies has become imperative to ensure transparent auditing of their books.
In 2018, the National Economic Council (NEC) ordered some of the aforementioned agencies to refund the unremitted revenues totaling N8.526trillion to the Federation Account but only few did. The best way to stop the non-remittance of money to the Federation Account by these agencies is to punish the perpetrators. In this era of the war against corruption, let the government show example by prosecuting and jailing those that dip their hands into government coffers.