The House of Representatives Committee on Public Accounts has summoned the Minister of finance, Zainab Ahmed; the Director-General, Budget Office of the Federation, Ben Akabueze; and the acting Accountant General of Federation, Okolieaboh Sylva; to explain why the Office of the Auditor General for the Federation (AuGF) is undermined in the preparation of the budget for his office.
The Chairman of the Committee, Oluwole Oke stated this while rejecting the 2023 budget proposal of the AuGF’s office.
The committee was furious that only 62 million naira has been budgeted for the AuGF’s office as against 2.5 billion naira initially proposed.
Lawmakers question how the auditor general, Adolphus Aghughu, can effectively audit government agencies with such a budget.
Reps Summon 63 Agencies For Spending Money Illegally
The House of Representatives Committee on Public Accounts has summoned 63 institutions of the Federal Government for implementing budgets not presented by the President and passed by the National Assembly, leading to illegal spending totalling over N2 trillion.
Chairman of the committee, Oluwole Oke, also had written a letter to the Director-General, Budget Office of the Federation, Ben Akabueze, to demand evidence of appropriation by the National Assembly.
The President is expected to transmit budgetary proposals of MDAs to the National Assembly, while the clerk transmits passed budgets to the Presidency for implementation.
However, Buhari, while laying the 2023 Appropriation Bill before a joint session of the National Assembly on October 7, 2022, slammed committees of the parliament who were bypassing him and approving budgets for Government-Owned Enterprises without his approval.
The President had said, “Distinguished Senators, Honourable Members, you may recall that we earlier integrated the budget of Government-Owned Enterprises into the FGN’s 2019 budget submission. This has helped to enhance the comprehensiveness and transparency of the FGN budget. It has, however, come to my attention that Government-Owned Enterprises liaise directly with relevant NASS committees to have their budget passed and issued to them directly.
“I would like to implore the leadership of the National Assembly to ensure that the budget I lay here today, which includes those of the GOEs, be returned to the Presidency when passed. The current practice where some committees of the National Assembly purport to pass budgets for GOEs, which are at variance with the budgets sanctioned by me, and communicate such directly to the MDAs, is against the rules and needs to stop.”
The committee, in the letter dated November 8, 2022, with Reference Number: HR/PAC/SCO5/9NASS/QUE.60/97, which was received at the Budget Office of the Federation on November 10, 2022, noted that the query was based on the alarm raised by the President.
The letter was titled, ‘Re-Request for Information/Documents with Respect to Allegations of Illegal Approvals of Budgets and Extra-Constitutional Expenditure by Some Government Owned Enterprises and Non-Treasury Funded Agencies.’
It partly read, “In pursuance of the power conferred on the National Assembly (Assembly) by Sections 88 and 89 of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999 (as altered) (Constitution), Standing Rules of the House of Representatives, and based on Section 2 of the Legislative Houses (Powers and Privileges) Act 2017, the Public Accounts Committee is conducting investigation into the allegation made by President Muhammadu Buhari, GCFR (Mr. President), during the presentation of the 2023 Appropriation Bill before a joint session of the National Assembly.
“Mr. President alleged that some Government Owned Enterprises have been submitting their budget and getting it passed through some committees of the National Assembly outside of the process prescribed in Section 81(1) of the Constitution.
“In view of the above and in line with Sections 88 and 89 of the Constitution, I hereby request that the Budget Office of the Federation furnish the committee with the approved Internally Generated Revenue (IGR) budget of the following parastatals for the period 2015-2022.
“Please kindly submit a soft copy and 15 hard copies of the above documents/information to Suite 4.23 House of Representatives Building, National Assembly, on or before the close of work on Friday 16th November, 2022.”
Giving more details on the matter, Oke said, “Over N2tn was spent illegally. Mr President has never presented or assented to these budgets. They are to tell Nigerians why they are operating illegal budgets; budgets that have not gone through the due process of law-making. Mr President never presented them to the parliament. Neither the Speaker nor the Senate president sighted or read them on the floor. All the agencies fingered have all been invited.”
Banks Charge Customers ₦715bn For Electronic Transactions, Others
Eleven banks charged their customers N714.61bn for electronic fees and other forms of commissions in the first nine months of 2022.
According to the nine-month financial reports of the banks, this is a 16.92 per cent increase from the N611.21bn earned by the banks from the income source in the corresponding period of 2021.
The banks included: Zenith Bank Plc, Sterling Bank Plc and Subsidiary, Stanbic IBTC Holdings Plc, Wema Bank Plc, Fidelity Bank Plc, and Union Bank of Nigeria Plc.
Others were: United Bank for Africa Plc, Unity Bank Plc, First Bank of Nigeria Holdings Plc, Guaranty Trust Holding Company and Subsidiary Companies, and Access Holdings Plc.
The fees and commissions included: credit related fees and commissions; account maintenance charges; corporate finance fees; e-business income; asset management fees; and commission on foreign exchange deals.
Others were: commission on touch points; shared service fees; income from financial guarantee contracts issued; account services, maintenance and anciliary banking; and transfers related charges among others.
Of the banks, UBA (N138.08bn) made the most from fees and commission and Unity Bank (N5.34bn) made the least. Zenith Bank Plc made N117.90bn from fees and commission; Wema Bank made N12.02bn; Fidelity made N25.04bn; Stanbic IBTC made N72.47bn; Union made N12.65bn; Sterling made N19.84bn; Access made N133.49bn; GTCO made N66.94bn; and FBN made N110.84bn.
According to Access Bank, fees and commissions expenses are fees charged for the provision of services to customers transacting on alternate channels platform of the group and on the various debit and credit cards issued for the purpose of these payments.
It said, “They are charged to the group on services rendered on internet banking, mobile banking, and online purchasing platforms. The corresponding income lines for these expenses include the income on cards (both foreign and local cards), online purchases, and bill payments included in fees and commissions.”
The Central Bank of Nigeria created new guidelines for bank charges on January 1, 2020. The new guideline mostly impacted card maintenance fees, charges for hardware tokens, and the amount that can be paid for electronic transfers.
According to the President of the Bank Customers Association of Nigeria, Uju Ogubunka, banks were making a lot from bank charges, burdening bank customers.
In an earlier interview with The PUNCH, He said, “The issue of excess charges has been a major source of concern to us as an association. We have since been fighting it and we will not stop.
“However, I must say that in most cases, the excess charges imposed on bank customers are not deliberate but a result of a capacity-building problem. That is when new recruits or inexperienced hands handle transactions and overcharge.
“Also, most times, when the banks overcharge, they are made to repay customers with prime interest plus two percent.”
AfDB Mobilises $31bn Investment Interest From Global Investors
The African Development Bank has drawn $31 billion in investment interest from African and global investors.
In a statement issued by the Communication and External Relations unit of the AfDB, AfDB President, Dr Akinwumi Adesina, said this at the 2022 Africa Investment Forum Market Days, which ended on Friday.
Adesina commended the forum’s outcomes and the partners’ commitment.
“Despite the challenges, we are not afraid, and neither have we despaired nor lost hope.
“We are excited and committed to a collective goal; accelerating the closure of deals to transform Africa and its investment landscape.”
He said the AIF’s focus was to attract more foreign direct investment to Africa and ensure the private sector remained the driving force of that transformation.
“The private sector is Africa’s growth accelerator. We must mitigate real and perceived risks and persuade the private sector that investing in Africa is safe,” Adesina said.
Combined with $32.8 billion from the rescheduled 2021 Africa Investment Forum Market Days, the forum has mobilised a total of 63.8 billion dollars of investment interest in 2022.
Islamic Development Bank President, Dr Mohammed Al-Jasser, said the organisation was hopeful that its commitment to the AIF would translate into tangible and measurable outcomes for the benefit of Africa.
Al-Jasser said the IsDB Group was committed to supporting transformative African projects, especially those promoting resilience and financial, economic, and social sustainability.
Furthermore, Admassu Tadesse, Trade and Development Bank Group President and Chief Executive, spoke on the value of the “AIF spirit” in doing more to advance and close investments.
Tadesse said, “Notwithstanding ongoing global crises, we have to keep our eye on the ball. We must continue to encourage and enable investment in agriculture and industry, as well as infrastructure.
“Growing our own food and manufacturing more will enable us to trade more. It will lead to less overall greenhouse gas emissions linked to imports from far away.
“In the process also generating more employment and opportunities for our people.”
Also, European Investment Bank President, Werner Hoyer, said the bank was excited to see how the creativity and vision of African innovators were making an impact.
Hoyer said, “Particularly in the area of technology which holds such great potential for Africa’s future”.
Mohan Vivekanandan, Group Executive Origination and Coverage, Development Bank of Southern Africa, said a unique feature of the 2022 forum was that it focused on transactions.
“It’s about the project sponsors, the project developers and how we, as development financiers, help them get their vision implemented to improve the quality of life of Africans.
“And how we promote economic growth, job creation and industrialisation,” Vivekanandan said.
Africa Finance Corporation President and Chief Executive Offcer, Samaila Zubairu, said, “The current global economic challenges indicate the critical need to build Africa’s self-sufficiency by investing in resilient infrastructure.
“Such critical investment is needed to drive Africa’s industrialisation and economic prosperity.”
Moreover, Africa50 CEO Alain Ebobisse said the AIF presented a timely platform to help scale up and speed up investments into Africa.
Ebobisse said attracting new pools of capital into infrastructure would be critical.
“More specifically, Africa’s institutional investors such as pension and sovereign wealth funds must play a critical role and will be the game changers for Africa’s infrastructure development,’ he said.
In addition, Afreximbank President, Benedict Oramah, said the AIF reflected the interest and optimism of global investors towards the continent and its opportunities.
“We close, knowing that the AIF, Africa’s largest transactional investment marketplace, continues to be a huge success.
“Moreover, the event serves as a measure of international confidence in Africa’s economic and political development and the unmatched investment opportunities this is creating,” Oramah said.
Also, the AIF Senior Director, Chinelo Anohu, on her part said, a lot of the successes recorded by the Africa Investment Forum were domiciled in the spirit of the partnership.
Anohu said it was up to the AIF to ensure the continent was “what it ought to be.”
The three-day event, which held in Abidjan, Côte d’Ivoire, attracted the participation of several African heads of states and government.
The event was themed ‘Building Economic Resilience through Sustainable Investments’.
The News Agency of Nigeria reports that the AIF platform has mobilised more than $100 billion in investment interests since its inception in 2018.