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Probing missing solid minerals funds - The Guardian

By The Citizen
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The report that the Revenue Mobilization, Allocation and Fiscal Commission (RMAFC) has begun moves to probe an alleged misappropriation of N873 billion solid minerals development fund, is a revelation that calls for concern. The amount is mind-boggling, but more importantly, the prospect of a probe that may yield nothing is heart-rending.

Like the many probes, which have either been jettisoned half-way or which findings are confined to locked-up shelves, this intended probe merely portends an addition to the comedy of errors, which unending probes have become.

The Minister of Solid Minerals, Musa Mohammed Sada, had attributed the alleged misappropriation to book-keeping inconsistencies.

According to reports, the minister disclosed that findings from a performance assessment of the sector revealed that the revenues realized in the form of royalties, charges and fees did not represent the actual revenues generated due to inherent flaws in the system.

Although it is difficult to decipher from this position the fiscal intricacies involved in the management of this sector, the veiled attempt to explain away the alleged misappropriation calls the ministry's integrity to question. What does the minister mean by 'inherent flaws'? Why are there inherent flaws in the system? Are the flaws deliberately imputed as a device to defraud?

As a matter of fact, Section 85(2) of the 1999 Constitution of the Federation Republic of Nigeria states that, 'the Public accounts of the Federation and of all Offices and Courts of the federation shall be audited and reported on by the Auditor-General who shall submit his report to the National Assembly; and for that purpose, the Auditor-General or any person authorized by him in that behalf shall have access to all the books, records, returns and other document relating to those accounts'. In this case it is important to ask: Is the Office of the Auditor-General of the Federation aware of these flaws?

What is clear is that there is a breach of due process and a tendency to circumvent the laid-down procedures for audit queries.

This is a sad commentary on Nigerian government's predisposition to accountability. It is a clear demonstration of inept fiscal management, against the backdrop that not too long ago, stakeholders in the solid minerals sector of the economy had decried the non-development of the sector owing to paucity of funds. Then, they had alleged that banks and other lending institutions were hampering the development of the sector by denying investors access to funds for mining activities.

And in response to this urgent clamour, the Federal Government entered into a partnership with some international institutions to establish the Solid Minerals Development Fund.

Given this scenario, a new dawn in the sector ought to be the least of many expectations. Alas, Nigeria is where resources are reserved for prebendal patronages, and direct pilfering and probes of such robbery form part of the equation. Every day, ad nauseam, Nigerians are inundated with reports of the Federal Government instituting probe panels over funds that are purportedly in its care. As moral devices for accountability and transparency, these probes are seldom successful and have lost their efficacy because they are often tailored to parochial interests and are ad hoc measures to address issues that demand long-term solutions. Above all, they often turn out to be schemes for covering up the crime.

By this circuitous rigmarole, however, the impression is given that Nigeria is a country of fraudsters and fund managers with zero respect for accountability.

The ultimate culprit of this fiscal indiscipline is the government that has, by intent or design, become the violators of the processes it has set up. Despite its numerous ministries, departments and agencies (MDAs), the government seems to have encouraged a culture of recklessness by setting up committees for everything with the express aim of compounding governance failures. Committees and ad hoc panels are set up to carry out the function of a government establishment, whose responsibility is duplicated elsewhere in the system.

This cumulation of ineptitude in management and outright pillaging of the treasury has resulted in a situation whereby accruals from the national endowment are yet to translate the nation's socio-economic life into any level beyond mere subsistence. A culture of self-enrichment by plundering the national wealth with reckless abandon now rules.

Today, there is an urgent need to refine the processes of wealth management for Nigeria to survive.