The House of Representatives has threatened to arrest the heads of ministries, departments and agencies for shunning its invitation to public and investigative hearings.
The Speaker of the House, Femi Gbajabiamila and Chairman of the House Committee on Public Accounts, Wole Oke, gave the threat at an investigative hearing organised by the committee in Abuja on Monday.
The committee is questioning the alleged “deliberate and reckless refusal by non-treasury funded ministries, departments and agencies to render accounts between 2014 and 2018 to the Auditor General for the Federation.”
Gbajabiamila, who was represented by the Deputy Majority Leader, Peter Akpatason, warned that the House would be forced to invoke its constitutional powers against them.
He named the Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria, Godwin Emefiele; Accountant General of the Federation, Ahmed Idris; and Auditor General of the Federation, Anthony Ayine, among erring officials.
The Speaker said “The Public Accounts Committee was purposely included in the constitution because of the strategic and very important role that the committee plays in every parliament all over the world. And any attempt to ignore such a committee, particularly when agencies of government are invited for an important occasion like this, it is a violation of our laws and carries weighty sanctions.
“The House is not pleased with the agencies of government that are not present here today, such as the Central Bank of Nigeria, and the Accountant General’s office as well as the Office of the Auditor General of Nigeria.
“When the MDAs fail to fully adhere to the letters and the spirit of the law, we create the circumstances for our citizens to believe that the actions we take and the priorities that we pursue are not intended to serve the greater good but for the private interests of such persons.”
According to Oke, the probe is to know why the MDAs record late or non-submission of audited accounts to the Auditor General’s office.
He said, “I have been given the statistics of agencies over the years that have refused to turn in their audited accounts. Do we have to wait on Mr President to intervene, when clearly you (MDAs) have the constitutional mandate (to present their reports). Mr President can only give you a job but he cannot do the job for you. If we like to be MDs or CEOs, why don’t we like to render accounts?
“If the ICPC or EFCC that we created, storms your office to ask for your audited accounts, will you be giving them the excuses that you are giving to us? What do you want our children to say about us; the generation coming behind us? Do you want them to round up all of us one day and fire us for failing this nation?”
Oke also threatened that the National Assembly would suspend budgetary allocations to indicted MDAs.
He said, “Despite this workable tripod system for checks and balances, key stakeholders have succeeded in frustrating its smooth operations.
“The danger is that if nothing is done to fix this problem, it will create an incentive for the MDAs to become reckless and non-accountable to any oversight authority.
“Without doubts, the tripod system for checks and balances has not been allowed to work since the enactment of the 1999 Constitution. I partly blame this on the failure of the constitution to prescribe a clear penalty for non-compliance with this provision.
“In such an instance of obvious gap in the law, the National Assembly will be left with no option but to exercise its power of appropriation to allocate nil funds to such MDAs for their failure to account for funds released to them.”