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Again, Customs CG, Ali Shuns Senate Panel

The Comptroller General of the Nigerian Customs Service, Hameed Ali, has failed to appear before the Senate Committee on Public Accounts despite several summons.

Asides previous invitation over the Customs audit report, Mr Ali was again summoned by the committee last week following an indictment of the Customs by the auditor-general’s report.

The report stated that the Nigerian Customs Service and the Federal Inland Revenue Service (FIRS) violated the Pension Reform Act 2014 which requires them to remit five per cent of their contributory pension to the National Pension Commission (PenCom).

The report by the auditor-general had among other things called on the accountant-general to “provide his investment ledger meant for the funds,” explain the reason the two agencies failed to comply with the provisions of the act while also sanctioning them as due.

Last week, the Accountant General of the Federation, Ahmed Idris, explained on behalf of the two.

“The noncompliance of the remittance of 5 per cent of the contributory pension (by the custom service, for instance) was as a result of insufficient funds. Also, I wish to state, as funding improves, the service will comply accordingly,” he said last week.

There was however, no representative from the Customs – hence the reason they were summoned again.

Reacting to his non-appearance, the chairman of the committee, Matthew Urhoghide, said the panel will “do a letter to the CG Customs that we are going to hold him responsible for the testimony given by the Accountant General.”

“His deliberate refusal to appear, (we) will take it that the accusations are correct and (we) are going to hold him responsible,” he said.

Ecology fund

Meanwhile, the panel on February 13 also queried the Central Bank of Nigeria and the office of the Accountant General Federation for deducting N596 billion from the Federation Account and transferring it to the ecological fund between 1999 and December 2015.

The Secretary General of the Federation (SGF), Boss Mustapha, was also summoned over matter.

Habiba Lawal, permanent secretary of the Office Ecological fund, located in the Office of the SGF, appeared before the committee on behalf of the SGF.

She explained that over the years, from 1984, there have been several ratios for allocations to the ecological fund from the federation account.

But presently, she explained, the ratio from the federation account is: federal government 1 per cent, state government 0.72 per cent, local government 0.60 per cent, a total of 2.32 per cent.

She said the allocations to state and local governments do not come directly to the ecological fund office but is shared directly at Federation Account Allocation Committee (FAAC) every month.

Speaking on how accruals to the federal government are spent, she said “the only thing the ecological fund office knows is what is in 1 per cent accruable to the federal government – of which our office is part of”.

“Within the one per cent meant for the federal government, the act setting up NEMA, gives them 20 per cent of the accruable of monthly basis from the ecological fund to NEMA to discharge it’s functions in addition to whatever appropriation they are given from the National Assembly.

“Also, the national agency for the great green wall also had an act that gives them 15 per cent of federal share from the ecological fund.

“The third layer which is new is the North East Development Commission which will start taking from the month of January and they will take 10 per cent of the federal government share of the ecological fund,” she said.

Ms Lawal also told the panel that the federal government’s allocation is not housed in the ecological fund office, but in the CBN under the custody of the office of the Accountant General of the Federation and the office of the Minister of Finance.

“So what comes to the ecological fund office in SGF’s office is the fund meant for the specific projects the president has approved. So if the president says the road from that door to that door should be done by the office of the ecological fund at the cost of N10.

“That approval is what I will send to the minister of finance who will process and send to the account general and then the SGF’s ecological fund account in CBN also will then be credited with the project funds. The ecological fund office cannot answer for the whole federation funds because it is not in our custody and our job is to implement these projects.”

The representatives of the office of the accountant general who appeared before the panel, requested for more time to prepare the necessary documents.

They were given two weeks by the committee.

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