Senate has given a one week ultimatum to hundred Federal Ministries, Departments and Agencies, MDAs to appear before it and explain how they spent the Service Wide Vote allocations from 2017 to 2021. Speaking in Abuja after raising a point of Order by the Chairman, Senate Committee on Public Accounts, Senator Matthew Urhoghide, on the refusal of the MDAs to appear despite several correspondences to them, the President of the Senate, Senator Ahmad Lawan threatened the 100 federal government owned agencies with zero budget allocation in 2023 for not honouring invitations of its committee for explanations on service wide vote expenditure from 2017 to 2021. According to Lawan, the agencies must come and defend what they have spent against the backdrop that they appear before the Senate for budget defence, the National Assembly appropriates the money, they must honour invitations of the Senate when called for explanations, adding that any public officer who accepted to serve and spend any public funds appropriated must be here and any one who refuses to do that should quit.
He said that in the next one week, if the name of an agency is here, it should be invited and refusal to come, nothing should be given to the MDA in the 2023 budget. Hammer of the Senate on the affected 100 agencies which included , the State House, Presidential Fleet, Ministry of Finance, Budget and National Planning; Nigeria Army, Navy, Airforce, Police , the Independent National Electoral Commission ( INEC ); Office of the Accountant General of the Federation; Ministry of Interior; Budget Office of the Federation; Ministry of Foreign Affairs; National Emergency Management Agency, NEMA; Nigerian Security and Civil Defence Corps, NSCDC; Nigerian Bulk Electricity Trading PLC( NBET); Ministry of Defence; Asset Management Corporation of Nigeria and Office of the Special Assistant to the President on Niger Delta Affairs.
Others are Ministry of Petroleum Resources; National Inland Water Ways, NIWA; Federal Ministry of Health; Presidential Amnesty Programme; Ministry of Agriculture and Development; Federal Civil Service Commission; Nigeria Nuclear Regulatory Authority; National Health Insurance Scheme; Ministry of Communications and Digital Economy; Tertiary Education Trust Fund, TETFUND; Ministry of Sports and Youth Development; Civil Defence, Fire, Immigration and Correctional Service Board; Border Communities Development Agency; Ministry of Environment; National Hajj Commission of Nigeria; Revenue Mobilization Allocation and Fiscal Commission; Federal Ministry of Information and Culture; Nigeria Defence Academy; National Human Rights Commission; National Centre for Disease Control and National Security Adviser, NSA.
Also affected are Federal Ministry of Women Affairs and Social Development; National Examination Coucil, NECO; Nigeria Police Acadamy; Ministry of Special Duties; Presidential AIR Fleet; Ministry of Science and Technology; Ministry of Mine and Steel Development; National Environmental Standards Regulatory Agency, NESREA; Standards Organisation of Nigeria; SON; North East Development Commission, among others. Earlier, Urhoghide came through orders 42 on Personal Explanation and 95( 5) ( a) of the Senate Standing Rules, Sections 61(1); 88(( and (2b); 89(1); 89(1) (c); 89(2) of the 1999 Constitution as amended to complain to his colleagues on alleged recalcitrance of heads of the affected agencies to honour invitations sent to them by his committee for required appearance before it for explanations on service wide vote given to them by the Presidency totalling N1.9trillion .
According to Urhoghide, Service Wide Vote is extra budgetary spending made to fill shortfalls in capital and recurrent expenditures , which are not audited by the Auditor General of the Federation and not known to various standing committees of the National Assembly. The Chairman of Public Accounts Committee who hinged his complaints on provisions of the 1999 Constitution ( as amended), said that heads of the affected agencies failed to honour several invitations sent to them to make required explanations on service wide vote spendings from 2017 to 2021. Urhoghide who noted that the affected agencies were also those who refused to appear before the committee to answer queries slammed on them by the Auditor General of the Federation on alleged financial infractions, said, ” Mr President , heads of agencies totalling about 100 , indicted in various reports forwarded to the Public Account Committee by Office of Accountant General of the Federation on disbursements and spending of Service Wide Vote from 2017 to 2021 , in line with provisions of sections 62, 88 and 89 of the 1999 Constitution, have repeatedly failed to appear before us.
“This to us , is against the Constitution and policy of accountability and transparency of the federal government. I crave your indulgence that we invite through your order either by way of warrant of arrest or anything so that these agencies can comes that we can complete our report and submit to this Senate “, he said. Not happy with the development, Lawan requested for the list of the affected agencies , read them out to all the Senators and ordered that they should appear before the Committee within one week or risk zero budget allocation in 2023 as far as capital expenditure component is concerned. Lawan said, “Your point of order are sustained fully and completely, totally sustained, you are right on the dot to bring to the plenary your grievances. Reading this list at plenary , gives the agencies opportunity to now know if they were not aware before for those that may claim ignorance and I am taking the opportunity here to advise that in the next one week if the name of any agency is here that agency should reach the committee on public account of the Senate to sort our when the agency would appear before the committee.
“If there is no communication whatsoever and no cogent and verifiable reason are given , we will Slash the budget of the agencies as far as capital component is concerned. Heads of the affected agencies must take this very seriously because any serving public officer must be ready to render accounts on public funds and if not ready to do so, should quit , since nobody should be above the law “, he thundered.”