HEDA Sues Nigeria’s Accountant-General, Wants Details Of N173billion Released To MDAs During COVID-19 Lockdown

A Federal High Court in Abuja has been asked to compel the Accountant-General of the Federation to release details of the N173 billion released to various Ministries, Departments, and parastatals during the lockdown occasioned by the COVID-19 pandemic last year. 

The ministries, parastatals, including security agencies, educational institutes, and other contractors are alleged to have received some N173 billion from the federal purse in the first half of 2020 without accountable documentation.

However, the Human and Environmental Development Agenda, (HEDA Resource Centre) in a motion ex parte filed at the Federal High Court in Abuja, is seeking the order of mandamus to compel AGF to release details of the expenditure up to May 29, 2020.

The Nigerian rights coalition cites Section 6 of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999, order 26 rule 6 of the Federal High Court as the basis for the judges’ powers.

The group submitted as exhibit the publication in respect of Dataphyte consortium titled “N173 billion payments without Description Defeats Nigeria’s Open Government Initiative”.

HEDA Chairman, Olanrewaju Suraju, said the N173 billion payment raises concern about how government parastatals expend public funds, adding that his group seeks details to determine if the funds were judiciously utilised and in the public interest.

The Dataphyte analysis of data on the open treasury portal had indicated that the whopping sum of N173 billion worth 1,353 payments was made to various parastatals between January 2020 and April 2020 without descriptions. 

HEDA noted that it made several requests in writing, asking the AGF to release details of the expenditure but did not get any response, which it said prompted the legal redress.

The group said it is in the public interest that the details are released.

According to HEDA, there are very strong indications that the office of the AGF has continued to neglect proper descriptions of payments issued to contractors and government agencies. 

It, therefore, expressed fear that the trend may defeat transparency and accountability, key elements necessary for good governance.

A breakdown of the figures showed that the zero description payments in January and February were ₦5.16 billion and ₦6.76 billion respectively.

In March and April 2020, the Nigerian government also paid ₦85.2 billion and ₦15.22 billion without description.

“The way these payments were made suggests unprofessional accounting procedures that will undermine transparency,” Suraju said.

Analysts contend that most of the payments were made to contractors under the National Rural Electrification Agency, National Directorate of Employment, (NDE), Nigerian Navy, Federal Fire Service, Federal Ministry of Youth and Sports Development, and National Inland Waterways Authority.

Other end-users were the Nigerian Airforce, Nigerian Defence Academy, Nigerian Correctional Service, and Federal Ministry of Niger Delta.

In an earlier report, Dataphyte said between January and November 2019, ambiguous payments were also made.

The values of the questionable transactions were set at ₦510.2 billion, representing 16 percent of the total payments done by the government in the same period.

The group said the description makes it difficult to establish accountable expenditure. The case has been assigned to Court 3, Federal High Court, Abuja

Nigeria dropped in the 2020 corruption ranking released by Transparency International (TI) in January.

The country dropped three places and scored lower in number of points than in its previous year’s record, which is an indicator that corruption is perceived to have worsened in the country within the last one year.

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