WHERE IS OUR MONEY?



THE state of the economy is discussed in muted tunes.
Nigerians have not been parties to the economic decisions that they bear the
brunt. Public funds are essentially seen as
the property of those who preside
over them.

Poor legislative oversights and the embarrassing refusal of
the authorities to note the difference between public and private resources
have resulted in economies that are in the pockets of the elected.
They have run matters as their personal inclinations
dictate. From the local governments, through the states to the federal, there
is hardly any difference in the management of the economy.
Whatever the public has gleaned about the national financial
crisis is from the inability of governments to pay bills, especially workers’
salaries that have been delayed in most states.
Oil sales that fuel the economy have been high. At a
consistent price of over $100 per barrel, the country is supposed to be doing
well on the budget benchmark of $79 per barrel, with production steadily
hitting over 2.4 million barrels per day.
Things have never been worse for a while. States are still
owed portions of their July, August and September allocations, projects are not
being funded. Things are not getting clearer as the controversies range about
what has happened to the money.
Increase in oil theft is loudly blamed for the drop in
revenue. Why is government unable to stop oil theft? The Nigerian National
Petroleum Corporation, NNPC, gets generous mentions about its opaque management
of oil funds, deciding when and what it pays into the federation account.
NNPC always owes the federation account. The controversy is
the exact figure. The Federal Government’s connivance with NNPC ensures
accounts of the federation remain mysterious. Figures as high as N2.3 trillion,
about half of the 2013 budget, have been mentioned as unremitted NNPC
obligations to the federation account.
There are cover-ups and the National Assembly is responsible
for them. NNPC accounts should be audited. Section 85 (4) states: “The
Auditor-General shall have power to conduct checks of all government statutory
corporations, commissions, authorities, agencies, including all persons and
bodies established by an Act of the National Assembly.”
Is NNPC not a statutory corporation? Does the provision
exclude the Central Bank of Nigeria, which takes autonomy as a blank cheque for
lawlessness?

Annually, since 1999, the National Assembly approves budgets
for the Office of the Accountant-General of the Federation. Why has the
National Assembly not held the Auditor-General responsible for not sanitising
public accounts? Sub-section (5) expects National Assembly committees on public
accounts to consider all public accounts.

Nigeria may not be broke, but its loose accounting, if not
checked, would keep her perpetually poor, and under-developing.

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