Nigeria: How Buhari Is Suppressing Own Govt's Anti-corruption War - PT - Politics -
By his refusal to assent or reject a crucial audit bill passed by the country's legislature several months ago, President Muhammadu Buhari is jeopardising measures aimed at improving financial accountability and transparency among government officials and organisations.
The president's failure to sign the bill into law is at variance with his avowed fight against corruption.
Passed by the National Assembly in July 2018, the Federal Audit Service Bill seeks to empower the country's auditor-general to penalise government agencies and officials who refuse to submit their financial statement for audit.
For instance, the bill empowers the auditor-general to withhold the emoluments of defaulting officials. It even recommends jail terms for erring officials.
Whilst the president's disinterest towards the bill may be extending the lifeline enjoyed by unscrupulous officials, it is also a slap on the country's constitution.
Nigeria's 1999 Constitution provides for a 30-day period within which the president shall "signify that he assents or that withholds assent" to a bill.
The audit bill was sent to President Buhari in January, more than double the 30-day window within which the constitution expects Mr Buhari to either sign or decline assent.
The presidency refused to speak on Mr Buhari's inaction over the bill, considered key to his much-vaunted anti-corruption fight.
"I don't have information on that," presidential spokesperson Femi Adesina said of the bill when reached for comments. "Contact Senator Ita Enang (Mr Buhari's National Assembly aide)," he added.
Mr Enang, when contacted, did not deny that the bill had been sent to the president. He, however, said he would not comment on his principal's inaction.
When asked why he would not be commenting, he replied: "Just because I am unable to respond."
Senior Special Adviser to the President on National Assembly Matters, Sen. Ita Enang speaking during his appearance on the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) Forum in Abuja on Tuesday (11/9/18).
He had previously requested a day to 'compile' his response when first interviewed a day earlier.
Ineffective 'supreme' anti-corruption institution
Section 85 of 1999 Constitution empowers the office of the auditor-general of the federation to access all the books, records, returns and other documents relating to those accounts of the federation and all public offices and courts.
"The Office of the Auditor-General for the Federation (OAuGF) is the Supreme Audit Institution (SAI) and the foremost statutory accountability office of Nigeria," stressed the incumbent auditor-general, Anthony Ayine, in a 2016 report, though turned in May 2018.
Despite being the country's most important institution for accountability under the constitution, the auditor-general has scarcely been an effective anti-corruption body.
For years, the auditor-general's reports have exposed cases of corrupt practices and how public officials have failed to account for public assets they are in charge of. But little or no consequences have emerged as a result of these revelations.
In its 2014 report, the auditor-general indicted the David Mark-led National Assembly for failing to account for N9.4 billion. Also, in its 2015 report, it stated that between 2013 and 2015, the police could not account for at least 44 assorted arms. Its 2016 report revealed how health officials at the Federal Medical Centre, Gusau in Zamfara State diverted N300 million meant for "health equipment".
But despite these damning indictments, hardly has anyone been held to face further investigation and possible prosecution by the security and anti-graft agencies.
Perhaps the biggest worry of the OAuGF is the flagrant disregard of its audit queries and observations by officials. To underscore the ineffectual power of the OAuGF, government agencies are increasingly refusing to submit their financial statements to the office as required by law.
Section 85 of the constitution and the Financial Reg