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THEWILL EDITORIAL: Plugging Revenue Leakages

Revenue Leakage
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Trending reports of missing revenue in some key government agencies have shown how patently impervious to change Nigerians are and the high level of impunity in government. When animals are now held accountable for missing money in the coffers of the government, it is time to ask whether the average citizen can ever get used to proper data and record keeping, let alone accountability and due process.

On August 14, 2022, the nation was held spell bound by a disclosure by the Managing Director of Nigerian Social Insurance Trust Fund (NSITF), Dr. Michael Akabogu, that some termites entered the store room of the agency and ate up vouchers totaling N17.12 billion. This negligence happened during the tenure of his predecessor.

Akabogu, who made the shocking revelation while appearing before the Senate Committee on Public Finance, told the Chairman of the Committee, Senator Matthew Uroghide, that the money was kept in a container that was beaten by rain and then eaten up by termites. The documents represent documents transferred from NSITF account to bank accounts belonging to individuals and companies from January 1 to December 2013.

This shameful and laughable conduct was two years-old in coming. In 2018, two such criminal cases took place in the Senate and in the account office of the Joint Admission Matriculation Board, JAMB in Makurdi, Benue State.

In the Senate, Senator Abdullahi Adamu was removed as Chairman of the Northern Governors Forum after Senator Shehu Sani alleged that N70 billion belonging to the Forum was stolen by monkeys. Then in JAMB’s office, a snake mysteriously swallowed N36 million.

On top of these facts of revenue leakages are the recurring cases involving MDAs, which every year fail to remit unspent budgets to the treasury.

Indeed an NGO, Public Order Papers, recently revealed that for the first quarter of 2022 some MDAs were found to have failed to remit unspent budget to the tune of N3.6 billion, adding that the trend has been going on for years while the government anti-graft agencies looked the other way. This is condemnable and should be discouraged.

So far, none of the officials involved in these clear cases of stealing of government revenue has been brought to book. Neither has the disgraceful trend stopped nor the agency blacklisted. The laxity in investigating these cases of daylight robbery by government officials with a bid to avoid recurrence proves the point if not claim that more of such abuses of office persists in government circles and may not end until some drastic action is taken.

We call on the relevant authorities to take a serious look into this ugly trend, which not only leads to revenue leakages in government but creates and supports a system that mocks the anti-graft policy of the government.

Some expert had made the point that the recourse to burrowing at the least need of funds by the government would lessen, if not stop, when leakages are blocked in the treasuries of government agencies, just as the MDAs are punished for refusing to remit unspent budget to the public coffers.

On this note, we wish to express support for the exemplary role the Independent Corrupt Practices and other Related Offenses Commission, ICPC, is playing in this regard by looking into the books of defaulting MDAs in a bid to bring them to account.

We recommend imposition of stiff penalties to stop this ridiculous trend in looting the public treasury to the detriment of the general welfare of the citizenry. The culprits should also be named and shamed to put them in the public spotlight as this method will go a long way to make them remorseful in this age of social media.