I am surprised federal lawmakers have appointed themselves judges, accountants and auditors over funds that belong to all of us. They ought to know that as a former boss of the Nigeria Social Insurance Trust Fund I had some privileges too when I was in office. I refer to the privileges that all heads of Ministries, Departments and Agencies believe they have to allocate to the Federal Government the funds it deserves and retain funds they feel their agencies deserve. So lawmakers are grossly mistaken to ask NSITF to remit more funds than I had already done when I was in office. This prying hand of lawmakers in the business of MDAs is annoying; members of staff of all MDAs grumble the same thing.
Let’s be clear about this, lawmakers are overdoing this thing they called legislative oversight and investigative power by insisting NSITF owes the Federal Government billions of naira. I take note though that the Auditor General of the Federation has been at the forefront of this war against all MDAs. The AuGF presented a report to lawmakers saying NSITF should explain the whereabouts of N87 billion that should have been remitted to the Federal Government. Then the Minister of Labour, Dr Chris Ngige, said that under my tenure, NSITF saved N2 billion but left a N30 billion debt. I won’t hasten to call these allegations character assassination because the two gentlemen may have been innocently wrong. By that I mean they aren’t familiar with the tradition in MDAs, so I shall proceed to properly enlighten them as well as the lawmakers.
Come to think of it, how did the two government officials and lawmakers come across the documents and the false information purporting that some funds haven’t been remitted by NSITF? There must be informants in the house. There are saboteurs. This is an act of betrayal and if I were still in office I would set up a committee to investigate the matter. Members of the ‘other tribe’ must be behind this. I know because the other tribe is always the cause of all the problems this nation has. How could anyone give information about NSITF’s secrets to our enemies? Lawmakers are MDAs’ Enemy Number 1, members of staff of all MDAs say so.
Imagine, those moles in our midst were the same members of staff that we had all agreed with on the sharing formula to adopt for us and the Federal Government. It’s the standard practice in MDAs, especially those that generate revenues. We take the funds we need and retire the rest to the treasury as we deem fair; it’s our means of survival since the Federal Government began this Treasury Single Account thing. Since the Federal Government blocks where we eat, it’s only sensible that we come up with measures that are a countermeasure.
I can’t count on my fingers MDAs that, like a secret cult, everyone from the DG to the lowest staff members agreed on how best to circumvent any unfavourable policy of the Federal Government. Note that there’s a consensus regarding this irrespective of tribe or religion. For instance, I know of MDAs where members of staff colluded to sabotage the online payment set for public transactions between citizens and government. Members of staff have rendered the online payment platform useless to users. Users go online and discover that in spite of the digital payment arrangement they must still show up in person at the desk of members of staff in MDAs where cash must exchange hands. Whoever doesn’t is called on the phone to be warned that their application is incomplete.
When cash has exchanged hands, members of staff return online themselves, fill the forms for users and thereafter send users information that their forms have been processed, all fees paid. It’s a neat arrangement. Never mind that staff members collect more than what the FG stipulates and they push all of that under ‘Administrative Fee’ that has no receipts, no record, and which lawmakers can’t ask questions about. Lawmakers don’t know that from the DG of any MDA down to the lowest member of staff, each person has their remittance from the ‘administrative fee’ and other sundry charges including “anything for the boys”. Business is really good in MDAs. Really, no one needs to be a minister or lawmaker to swim in money. The DG of an agency is all he needs to be. MDAs are where the books are best cooked. Don’t lawmakers see that, recently, when they ask heads of subsidiaries of the agency that refines crude oil to come and personally account for funds it’s their overall boss who suddenly insists on being their spokesperson?
Meanwhile, whoever comes to the desk of a member of staff at MDAs can be sure they’ll hear plenty of what sounds like “God” in every statement, as well as pronouncements of blessings upon them who have just parted with ‘administrative fee.’ We’re a religious people, you know. Don’t be bothered by what some call extortion. You see, survival, making ends meet in one’s place of work is one thing, showing up in places of worship is another. Whoever links the two must be naive. And no one should think negatively about me and my religion because it’s the people of the other religion that are the cause of Nigeria’s problems.
As for the allegation, Ngige made that under my tenure NSITF owed debt, it’s neither here nor there. Don’t people do business and they make profit sometimes, and sometimes they lose? I don’t think Ngige is conscious of this fact. He’s a medical doctor, not a businessman, so I won’t blame him. But I’m disappointed that such a comment is attributed to him. Okay, as a government official, has Ngige ever seen where a government makes profit? Especially in Nigeria, the government only accumulates debt. It’s no one’s debt anyway. All Nigerians owe the debt that MDAs owe and all Nigerians will pay. So why should Ngige be making a mountain out of the fact that the former management of NSITF incurred debt?
As for the AuGF, and from many of the things he says, which he considers to be revelations about so-called malpractices in MDAs, I think he’s a man who doesn’t know how to let bygones be bygone. Imagine, all the time AuGF goes to lawmakers to leak the secret that MDAs don’t remit to the government this amount and MDAs don’t account for that amount. Worse still, AuGF may start from 2022 and trace it all the way back to whatever year he chooses, claiming that’s for how long MDAs have been owing to the Federal Government. That’s unfair on the part of AuGF and he should always learn to be fair. I hope he has a religion. If he does, hasn’t he heard religious leaders who say one should learn to overlook an offence? Particularly with regard to offences committed against the state, AuGF should learn to overlook them. After all, it’s not anyone’s fund. It’s our fund. I advise him to stop harassing those of us who are former or current DGs of MDAs. He shouldn’t be opening a can of worms too often. The only trouble I have with him is that his tenure is quite different. In the past, we knew how to settle the boys and all books would look sparkling clean to lawmakers.
As for lawmakers, who insist AuGF should report unremitted funds to them, they need to take things easy. They can’t even begin to understand the enormity of the task they unearth for themselves. Unremitted funds? Where will they get it? Did they ever get the one they had severally asked the nation’s agency responsible for generating revenue from crude oil to remit?
Sometimes, I wonder if lawmakers realise that what applies to them as politicians applies to us too as heads of MDAs. Those that we lobbied to become DGs get remittances too. It’s there, somewhere in the “unapproved expenditure,” the “misappropriated fund” and the “inflated contract.” I advise lawmakers to relax because those who appoint us will always see to it that unremitted funds don’t remit. And it’s easy to do. Another election cycle is about to end, isn’t it? Lawmakers can be sure their successors will flog ‘unremitted funds’ too. Lest we forget.
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