The House of Representatives Committee on Public Accounts has commenced investigations into how Nigeria’s foreign mission engage in extra budgetary spending and refuse to remit internally generated revenue into government coffers as provided for in the nation’s extant laws.
This was just Chairman House of Representatives Committee on Aviation, Hon. Nnolim Nnaji has expressed appreciation to the federal government for responding to the appeal and concerns expressed by the House of Representative leadership by releasing more than half of the trapped foreign airlines’ funds.
The report of how some embassies spent over N13 billion not budgeted for was contained in the report of the Auditor General for the Federation on the financial and other activities of the foreign missions and the Federal Ministry of Foreign Affair between 2010 and 2019, which the Public Accounts Committee is currently looking into.
However, the Auditor General stated in the report that efforts to audit the accounts of some of the missions were rebuffed by staff of such embassies acting on the directing of the Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Foreign Affair who directed them not to allow staff of the Auditor General access to their books.
In the over 450-page document, the Auditor General raised alarm over the habit of the foreign missions to engage in extra budgetary expenses and refusal to remit generated revenue into the Consolidated Revenue Fund of the Federation, while also engaging in activities that has negative impact on the nation’ finances.
The AuGF added, “the practice where Nigerian Missions over-expended their allocations with impunity should be frowned at. It should be noted that this action is a contravention of financial regulation which stipulates that no expenditure on any sub-head of the recurrent estimates in excess of the provision in the approved estimates or supplementary estimates may be authorised by any officer controlling a vote without the prior approval of the National Assembly.
“I am deeply worried at the non-adherence to budgetary provisions by most missions. It is important to note that this act contravenes the provision of extant regulations which stipulates that no expenditure on any sub-head of the recurrent estimates in excess of the provision in the approved estimates or supplementary estimates may be authorised by any officer controlling a vote without the prior approval of the National Assembly.
“It should also be noted that this practice makes nonsense of the appropriation. I have observed that most of the Nigerian Missions have formed the habit of over-expending their allocations with impunity. This practice makes nonsense the essence of appropriation and should be frowned at.
“I have noted with dismay that most Nigerian Missions incur expenses on most of their expenditure sub-heads in excess of the provision in the approved estimates. It should be noted that this contravenes the provisions of Financial Regulation 313 (2009 Edition) which stipulates that no expenditure on any sub-head of the Recurrent estimates in excess of the provision in the approved estimates or supplementary estimates may be authorised by any officer controlling a vote without approval of the National Assembly.”
The report alleged that while the landed properties of the Nigeria Embassy in Brassila have been left in a dilapidated position without any effort to renovate them, the Embassy has been spending a staggering amount of $50,247.89 (N7,500,000.00) annually on rent for two of its staff, adding that the $50,247.80 spent on rent for three years could be utilised to renovate the landed properties which are deteriorating and a lot of savings made for government.
It also stated that the embassy exchanged six old vehicles whose prices were not made available for two new one purchased at a total cost of $95,211.00 (N11,754,444.44), while an additional amount of $17,642.08 (N2,375,224.28) was expended on shipment, Insurance and clearing of these new vehicles even when there was no budgetary provision for the purchase.
Furthermore, the report stated that in 2010, the then Nigerian Ambassador to Poland claimed over N9.777 million annually for non-existing domestic staff.
The AuGF report also stated that in 2011, the Nigeria Ambassador to France spent over N1.75 million from government coffers on entertainment of Guests without any record of the guests, haircut, manicure, hair colouring and cost of ticket to Nigeria for consultation without any evidence of any official invitation/approval for the journey, describing them as very private expenses that should not have been borne by public funds.
Also, it showed that at the Embassy in the United Arab Emirate, the AuGF said, a total sum of $100,000.00 (N15,385,000.00) was remitted as take-off grant to Oil and Gas Free Zone Authority (OGFZA) Rito Office, to open and operate an investment office in Abu Dhabi, UAE, even when there was no policy instrument to support the remittance.
The Auditor General stated there was a general lack of standard and uniformity in the conditions of service of the local staff, most of whom are Nigerians living in the United Kingdom while an average sum of £226,974.80 was spent monthly on the remuneration of the local staff, compared to the £74,108.38 spent on the home based officers.
House of Representatives Commend FG over Release of $265mn to Foreign Airlines
Meanwhile, Nnaji has acknowledged efforts of the Ministries of Aviation and Finance as well as the Central Bank of Nigeria, (CBN) in their roles in making the release of the foreign airlines’ trapped funds possible.
The House Committee Chairman on Aviation similarly expressed thanks to the Speaker and the leadership of the House of Representatives for always responding swiftly to the matters affecting the industry.
He equally urged the International Air Transport Association (IATA) and the member airlines to show understanding by rescinding some of the actions they have taken against the country.
According to him, “As representatives of the Nigerian people, the House leadership and members of my Committee will continue to dialogue with the executives to ensure robust air transport economy in our country.”
Nnaji further stressed that while the relevant organs of government were making efforts to liquidate the remaining balance, sufficient arrangements should be put in place to avoid a repeat occurrence of such circumstances in future.
He equally appealed to the airlines to try to bring down their fares on Nigerian routes, noting that investigations had shown that Nigerian travellers pay the higher airfares on international routes more than any country in Africa.
Nnaji who frowned at the alleged insistence of some foreign airlines to sell their tickets in dollars, further urged them to discontinue with such practice to save passengers from undue pressure.
Meanwhile, Nigeria’s leading airline, Air Peace, has announced the addition of daily morning frequencies to its Benin route, effective from August 30, 2022.
The airline disclosed this in a statement made available to newsmen in Lagos yesterday.
“In line with our commitment to providing Nigerians more connectivity and easing the burden of air travel, we are glad to announce additional daily morning flights on our Benin route- Lagos – Benin- 07:30hrs; Benin – Abj- 09:00hrs; Abj – Benin- 10:30hrs; and Benin – Lagos- 11:50hrs”, the release stated.
The airline said that these morning flights are in addition to the existing afternoon and evening flight frequencies operated by the airline.