The president had on the 23rd of February 2015, made the remarks putting the Annual budget at between N4.3 trillion and N4.9 trillion yearly. This he did while defending the allegation by the Former CBN Governor, Charles Soludo that N30 trillion had either been mismanaged or missing.
Its Public Accounts Committee, which made the disclosure in Abuja, noted that, an ongoing examination of the finances of government and its 601 agencies showed that the N4.3tn given as the total spending budget for this year was a “far cry” from the reality.
The Chairman of the committee, Mr. Adeola Solomon-Olamilekan, who spoke on the issue, explained that, unknown to Nigerians, the N4.3tn, for example, did not include the expenditure of many “statutory and extra-ministerial departments” of government.
He added that his committee found out that these other agencies not captured in the regular budget, generated and spent their money as it pleased them without seeking the approval of the National Assembly.
The lawmaker put the budget of these other bodies at over N16tn.
Solomon-Olamilekan explained further, “The N4.9tn, N4.6tn or N4.3tn, as the case may be, is the budget that the whole Nigerians are listening to but in the true sense of it, the budget of other statutory and extra-ministerial departments put together is about N16tn.
“So, the total overall budget year in year out is over N20tn, which the executive arm operates, but nobody is asking questions as to the implementation of all these budgets.
“Nobody is bringing information on the implementation of all these budgets; and this is one area Nigerians need to start asking questions in order to move this country forward.”
Solomon-Olamilekan stated that though the Fiscal Responsibility Act, 2007, made adequate provisions on how these bodies should be held accountable, the law was observed in breach.
He cited the “stifling” of the Office of the Auditor-General of the Federation as one of the ways to shield government agencies from opening their books to scrutiny.
Solomon-Olamilekan said this was done by starving the office of funds “over the years” to a point where it no longer had the financial power to effectively audit the accounts of the implementation agencies of government and its extra-ministerial departments.
For instance, he revealed how the government cut the capital budget of the AGF’ office from N1.9bn to a “meagre” N100m in 2015.
The lawmaker said his committee was at a loss on how the AGF’s office would audit the accounts of 601 agencies with N100m and the country’s 144 foreign missions.
The PAC chairman added, “How can we imagine that the capital budget of the office of AGF for the year 2015 was reduced from N1.9bn to N100?
“Can you also imagine an office of the AGF that has 144 foreign missions to audit and as we speak, between 1999 to date, that office has not audited up to 30 of these foreign missions while three quarter of these foreign missions are also revenue generating agencies?
“So, there is nobody to audit the revenue generated and the expenditure they incur.
“The office of the AGF has been short-changed and the budget has been reduced to nothing. As such, the government of the day is having a field day to carry out whatever its wants to do because they know they have an office that is not functioning.”
The PAC has also been saddled with the responsibility of retrieving the full report on the audit investigation into the $20bn reportedly ‘missing’ from the accounts of the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation from the Minister of Finance, Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala.
The House had, in plenary on Wednesday last week, given the minister seven days to submit the full report to the lawmakers.
“So you’ll see that there is a lot of politicking about some of the serious issues. Not too long ago I read in one of the papers, I think Vanguard, that former chief economic adviser to President Obasanjo who also went to become a CBN governor… Soludo is a professor and first class material. Yes, making a first class in economics, he is a brilliant person. His secondary school records are fantastic. So by all standards he is a brilliant person. So the Vanguard wrote that he accused Ngozi; that N30 trillion was stolen under the watch of Ngozi in four years,” the president said.“Ngozi became a finance minister, let’s say from 2011 till date. From that time till now, our annual budget is between N4.3 trillion and N4.9 trillion.
So even if you put all together, it is about 18 plus trillion naira, and not 30 trillion. The budget for these four years is less than N20 trillion, but Soludo said that under Ngozi’s watch they stole N30 trillion. This is in the papers, social media, stored in the clouds and will continue to be there. And when you type it in it will come out that during President Jonathan’s time they stole N30 trillion.”
“First, you admit that ‘oil theft’ has reduced oil output from the average 2.3 – 2.4 million barrels per day to 1.95 mpd (meaning that at least 350,000 to 450,000 barrels per day are being ‘stolen’). On the average of 400,000 per day and the oil prices over the past four years, it comes to about $60bn ‘stolen’ in just four years.
“In today’s exchange rate, that is about N12.6tn.
This is at a time of cessation of crisis in the Niger Delta and the amnesty programme. Can you tell Nigerians how much the amnesty programme costs, and also the annual cost for ‘protecting’ the pipelines and security of oil wells? And the ‘thieves’ are spirits?
“Second, my earlier article stated that the minimum forex reserves should have been at least $90bn by now and you did not challenge it. Rather, it is about $30bn, meaning that gross mismanagement has denied the country some $60bn or another N12.6tn. Now, add the ‘missing’ $20bn from the NNPC. You promised a forensic audit report ‘soon’, and more than a year later, the report itself is still ‘missing’.
This is over N4tn, and we don’t know how much more has ‘missed’ since Sanusi cried out.“How many trillions of naira were paid for oil subsidy (unappropriated?)? How many trillions (in actual fact) have been ‘lost’ through customs duty waivers over the last four years? As coordinator of the economy, can you tell Nigerians why the price of Automotive Gas Oil, popularly called diesel, has still not come down despite the crash in global crude oil prices, and how much is being appropriated by friends in the process?
“Be honest: Do you really know (as coordinator and minister of finance) how many trillions of naira self- financing government agencies earn and spend? I have a long list but let me wait for now. I do not want to talk about other ‘black pots’ that impinge on national security.”
Mr. Soludo added,
My estimate, Madam, is that probably more than N30tn has either been stolen, or lost, or unaccounted for, or simply mismanaged under your watchful eyes in the past four years. Since you claimed to be in charge, Nigerians are right to ask you to account. Think about what this amount could mean for the 112 million poor Nigerians, or for our schools, hospitals, roads, etc.“Soon, you will start asking the citizens to pay this or that tax, while some faceless ‘thieves’ are pocketing over $40m per day from oil alone.”