Reps accuse Foreign Affairs minister of extra-budgetary expenditures

THE House of Representatives Committee on Foreign Affairs has accused the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Geoffrey Onyeama, of spending extra billions of naira outside the budget approved for the Ministry.

The committee led by Yusuf Buba Yakub during the budget defence session with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs on Wednesday accused Onyeama of refusing to adhere to the provisions of the Appropriation Act.

To buttress their assertions, the lawmakers alleged that the refusal by Nigerian Foreign Missions and Embassies to constitute their Tender Boards and render an account of their administrative charges is at the behest of the minister.


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“One is, therefore, surprised and, indeed, it beats every logic that the Ministry of Foreign Affairs has deliberately refused to abide by the laws of the Federal Republic of Nigeria and by other statutes of the land, including the Standing Orders of the House,” Yaqub said.

“The question this Committee is asking the Minister of Foreign Affairs is: Is he bigger than Nigeria and its laws? Or how else will one explain the constant flagrant abuse of the laws of the land even when we have continued to write letters to the Ministry reminding it of relevant provisions of our laws that demand abiding by.

“According to Section 10 of the Appropriations Act 2022 (as Amended), Missions and Embassies have been empowered to constitute their Tender Board for the purpose of the procurements they need to make.

“We have called the attention of the Minister to this Act, but he has continued to direct the Missions not to obey this law in spite of receiving about four letters on the issue, including the latest one of 6 September 2022.

“In addition to the above, Section 7 of the Appropriations Act 2022 (As Amended), captures, inter alia, that “The Minister of Finance shall ensure that funds appropriated under this Act are released to the appropriate agencies and or organs of government as and when due, provided that no funds for any quarter of the fiscal year shall be deferred without prior waiver from the National Assembly.

“In total disregard of the above, the Ministry has continued to direct Missions to retain and spend monies in their capital accounts without any waivers from the National Assembly.

“A 23rd September 2022 letter by this Committee that was sent to the Ministry, as a reminder to earlier ones, still did not stop the Ministry from flouting the laws of the land.

“Being aware that administrative charges have been approved at the Missions by Mr President, this Committee, in line with Section 80 (3 and 4) CFRN (As Amended) has also observed that in total disregard to what the law says, the Minister has continued to authorise the spending of monies generated through administrative charges at the Missions without being appropriated by the National Assembly.”

The committee resolved not consider the 2023 budget proposal of the Ministry until it directs all Missions to abide by Section 10 of the 2022 Appropriations Act (as Amended).

The lawmakers also directed the Ministry furnish the National Assembly with the 2023 budget proposals in respect to targeted revenues from administrative charges at the Missions and Embassies.






     

     

    The House of Representatives Committee on Foreign Affairs also demanded the list of unspent funds under the capital component of the Missions’ allocations for the necessary waivers of the National Assembly.

    Responding to the accusation, Onyeama absolved himself of blame, saying that at no time did he issue a directive to officials of the Ministry, Embassies and Missions abroad to disregard the directive of the National Assembly and the constitution of Tenders Board in line with the dictates of the appropriation Act.

    “We have never flouted the law in anyway. I have never signed any document in respect to the disregard of the parliament,” he noted.

    Referring to various charges filed by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) on issues relating to usage of administrative charges by officials of the Ministry, he explained that he had already developed a template aimed at ensuring accountability of unspent funds.

    Nurudeen Akewushola is an investigative reporter and fact-checker with The ICIR. He believes courageous in-depth investigative reporting is the key to social justice, accountability and good governance in society. You can reach him via [email protected] and @NurudeenAkewus1 on Twitter.

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