The Civil Service as Engine Room of Nigerian Corruption, By Monday Ubani

To match Interview NIGERIA-BUHARI/

I am sure that many Nigerians have not forgotten that one of the cogent and compelling reasons why a majority of Nigerians voted massively for President Muhammadu Buhari was the fact that he promised to fight corruption in Nigeria to a standstill. His promise was boosted by the fact that he possesses the capacity to nib corruption in the bud. Not only does he possess the capacity, he had demonstrated that he neither tolerated nor condoned corruption and corrupt persons in the past. Though his assets are yet to be declared publicly, the information at the disposal of some persons close to him indicate that he is a man of moderate means, despite the positions of authority and lucrative assignments he has carried out on behalf of the Nigerian state in the past.

Buhari was a governor, a minister of petroleum, a head of state and chairman of the Petroleum Trust Fund, under the Abacha’s regime. These are clearly lucrative positions that he could have used for unjust enrichment. He chose otherwise, thereby endearing himself to many Nigerians, young and old, who are tired of the embarrassment of corruption in every facet of our national life. It got to a stage under the last dispensation that another name for Nigeria was ‘corruption’. No serious fight was waged by the last regime against corruption and corrupt practices. Agencies like the Economic and Financial Crime Commission (EFCC), and the Independent Corruption Practices & Other Related Offences Commission (ICPC) that were created by law to fight and end corruption were purposely and brazenly crippled and disabled to wage any war against the vice.

…a recent finding of the House of Representatives Committee on Finance reveals that many ministries, departments, and agencies (MDAs) have over the years failed to remit part of their revenue to the Consolidated Revenue Fund of the Federal Government in line with the Fiscal Responsibility Act and the Nigerian Constitution. The revelation is to the effect that a total of 52 federal government agencies have failed to remit about 9 Trillion Naira Independent Generated Revenue (IGR) to the government between 2009 and 2012 and more than 10 Trillion Naira was generated and not remitted between 2013 to 2015.

There is corruption in the public and private sectors. In the public sector, we have the corruption of the political class which is very pervasive, destructive and harmful and the corruption of the civil servants which is more deadly and possesses the potency for mass destruction of both living and non-living things in the polity. The corruption by the civil servants remains the worst form of corruption in the system.

Much has been written and massive exposures made of the corruption of the political class but not much has been written, exposed or known of the corruption in the civil service, perpetrated by the civil servants, both at the State and Federal levels. It has a more devastating effect and I tell you, Nigeria may not recover economically if we fail to pay attention to that sector and save the country from total collapse.

As analogy, a recent finding of the House of Representatives Committee on Finance reveals that many ministries, departments, and agencies (MDAs) have over the years failed to remit part of their revenue to the Consolidated Revenue Fund of the Federal Government in line with the Fiscal Responsibility Act and the Nigerian Constitution. The revelation is to the effect that a total of 52 federal government agencies have failed to remit about 9 Trillion Naira Independent Generated Revenue (IGR) to the government between 2009 and 2012 and more than 10 Trillion Naira was generated and not remitted between 2013 to 2015. Is this not worrisome considering that the country has been running a deficit budget and had resorted to borrowing from both the domestic and external debt markets? It is reported that 18 States are owing arrears of salaries, some upwards of 11 months, with Akwa-Ibom being the least with one month salary arrear.

The Fiscal Responsibility Act 2007 provides that every Corporation shall establish a Surplus and General Reserve Fund and shall allocate thereto, at the end of each financial year, one-fifth of its operating surplus for the year. The balance of the operating surplus shall be paid into the Consolidated Revenue Fund of the Federal Government not later than one month, following the statutory deadline for publishing each Corporation’s Accounts. Each Corporation shall not later than three months after the end of its financial year cause to be prepared and published its audited financial reports in accordance with such rules as may be prescribed from time to time.

The List of Culprits

The above quoted law is observed in breach by almost all government agencies and parastatals. The biggest culprit is the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) and its subsidiaries. Between 2009 and 2012 their IGR was a total of N6 Trillion but they did not remit a kobo of this amount to the Federation Account. I am in doubt whether any has been remitted up till date. The Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), according to report, raked in N2 Trillion between the same time but only remitted 7.5 percent of that amount to the Consolidated Revenue Fund.

A breakdown of investigation showed that while in 2009 the agencies raked in IGR to the tune of N3.06 Trillion, remittance to the treasury was N46.8 Billion or 1.53%; in 2010, N3.07 Trillion was generated but remittance was a patry sum of N54.1 Billion or 1.76%. In 2011, N3.17 Trillion was generated but remittance was N73.8 Billion or 2.33%.

The Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria (FAAN) generated a total of N112 Billion and remitted only 0.04% of this to the government treasury; the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA) raked in a total of N122 Billion through IGR and remitted 7.43%. In the same vein, the Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA) generated a total of N442 Billion but paid in only 5.59% of this. Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) generated N141 Billion and remitted only 8.53% of the sum. Bank of Industry (BOI), Joint Admissions and Matriculation Board (JAMB), Corporate Affairs Commission (CAC), Federal Radio Corporation of Nigeria (FRCN), National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control (NAFDAC), West Africa Examinations Council (WAEC), National Pension Commission (PenCom), Standards Organisation of Nigeria (SON), Federal Mortgage Bank of Nigeria (FMBN), Federal Inland Revenue Service (FIRS), National Broadcasting Commission (NBC), and Nigerian Television Authority (NTA) are all guilty of this non-remittance to the Consolidated Revenue Account of the Federation.

Why will government agencies spend money that is not appropriated by the National Assembly you may ask? It is pure impunity, simple.

A breakdown of investigation showed that while in 2009 the agencies raked in IGR to the tune of N3.06 Trillion, remittance to the treasury was N46.8 Billion or 1.53%; in 2010, N3.07 Trillion was generated but remittance was a patry sum of N54.1 Billion or 1.76%. In 2011, N3.17 Trillion was generated but remittance was N73.8 Billion or 2.33%. These Agencies have been exploiting the loophole in the Fiscal Responsibility Act 2007 which allows agencies to remit to the treasury based on an operating surplus framework. What agencies do is to spend as much as possible, leaving little or no surplus for the treasury. As said earlier all the agencies are in breach of this extant law.

Imagine, if all these Internally Generated Revenues are properly accounted for and remitted to the treasury, these funds could be used for capital projects to develop the country and create jobs for the teeming jobless youths. Why will government agencies spend money that is not appropriated by the National Assembly you may ask? It is pure impunity, simple.

…the proceedings in court against subsidy scammers of year 2012 have remained at the preliminary stage till date with no serious attempt made to ensure successful prosecution of the culprits.

It is reported that the federal government borrowed money recently to pay monthly salaries and I was shocked at this information. If you take into account that eighteen (18) out of thirty-six (36) states are owing salaries for several months, you are further shocked at these revelation since you are aware that things ought not to be so in the light of the several trillions of naira generated by government parastals and agencies but which are not remitted to the federal treasury. Despite all the crocodile concerns shown by the previous government pertaining to the pervasive corruption in the civil service, not much was achieved in stopping it. When revelations were made of certain agencies that failed to remit to the federal treasury, the government usually turned deaf ears and blind eyes and failed to insist that they remit these sums as required by the law or face sanctions.

If we go back to records, there were many occasions when findings were made, either by the outgone Seventh National Assembly, their committees and even by established institutions against the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation and its subsidiaries of non-remittance to the Federation Account, yet those findings were either ignored or at best snubbed at by the then Minister of Petroleum, Mrs. Deziani Allison Madueke. Furthermore, the proceedings in court against subsidy scammers of year 2012 have remained at the preliminary stage till date with no serious attempt made to ensure successful prosecution of the culprits.

Suggestion and the Way Forward

The President Muhammadu Buhari must understand his position in the present history of Nigeria and appreciate the burden Nigerians have entrusted on his shoulders, and on his government. Nigerians desire a stop to corruption and/or its reduction to the barest minimum. They also demand that he recovers all the stolen money from corrupt political office holders and civil servants who have bled this country to the adverse position we are in today. Not only must he recover all from them, he must also punish them in order to send a clear message that the country will no longer tolerate the level of impunity with which these characters bled Nigeria’s treasury. This is the clear way for the incumbent President to go in order to retain the confidence and trust of the citizens in his new government. Anything short of this will signal the unfortunate end of the romance this government enjoys with the majority of Nigerians, especially the progressive elements in the country and in diaspora.

The time to act is now Mr. President!

Monday Onyekachi Ubani, is a former Chairman of Nigeria Bar Association, Ikeja Branch.

This was delivered as a lecture at the recent Press Conference of Nigerians Unite For Democracy held in Lagos, Nigeria.

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