The House of Representatives is poised to investigate the Ministry of Finance and the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), for engaging in extra budgetary spending of over $500 million from Nigeria Export Supervision Scheme Fund.
The House has also resolved to investigate the spending by the CBN and the Ministry of Finance over another extra-budgetary spending of about N700 billion from the same fund in contravention of section 80 of the constitution which stipulates that such funds must be appropriated before being utilised.
Adopting a motion of urgent public importance sponsored by Hon. Abdullahi Sa’ad Abdulkadir, on the need for urgent investigation and audit of the Nigeria Export Supervision Scheme Fund, in view of the joint rendition of account to the Auditor General of the Federation by the Ministry of Finance, the House, therefore, directed its Committee on Public Account to carry out the investigation and report back within four weeks.
Hon. Abdulkadir said that the Pre-Shipment Inspection of Export Act of 1966 requires that prior to the export of any goods from Nigeria, it must be inspected by an Inspection Agent, which in turn, is required to issue, where appropriate, a Clean Certificate of Inspection to the overseas buyer of the goods.
The House member added that both oil and non-oil export are liable to Pre-Shipment Inspection in respect of their quality, quantity and price while the Inspection Agent is required to issue to the Exporter a Provisional Certificate of inspection.
He said further that upon loading of the goods and conduct of a final inspection, where the goods satisfy the required thresholds as to quantity, quality and price, the Inspection Agent will issue a Clean Certificate of inspection.
The lawmaker who is also the Deputy Chairman of the House Committee on Public Account, stressed that in order to engender transparency in the administration of the Pre-Shipment Inspection programme, the Act requires the Inspection Agent to send an original copy of the Clean Certificate of Inspection to the Federal Ministry of Finance, the Nigeria Customs Service, the Nigerian Ports Authority, the exporter, the exporter’s bank for transmission to the buyer’s bank overseas and the Central Bank of Nigeria.
In the spirit of transparency and public accountability Hon. Abdulkadir said the Inspection Agent is obligated to provide weekly reports of successfully conducted Pre-Shipment Inspection to the Federal Ministry of Finance, Federal Ministry of Trade and Investment, and the Central Bank of Nigeria
He alleged that for the past 10 years, the Federal Ministry of Finance and the Central Bank of Nigeria have expended from the Fund without the National Assembly appropriating for such spending, saying ‘it is widely known that both the Federal Ministry of Finance and the Central Bank of Nigeria utilise the funds in the Special Fund as a sort of slush fund.’
The action of the Ministry and the CBN, Hon. Abdulkadir noted, “constitutes a gross violation of the letters and spirit of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, the Fiscal Responsibility Act 2007, the transparency intents embedded in the Pre-Shipment Inspection of Export Act 1966 and the Finance (Control and Management) Act.
“The extra-statutory deductions and illegal expenditure from this fund has cost Nigeria over 700 billion Naira within the last ten years.
Recently, over 500 million United States Dollars was expended from the Fund without any budgetary appropriation.
In addition, the Federal Ministry of Finance has failed and refused to render its account in respect of the NESS Fund to the Auditor General for the Federation.
If urgent steps are not taken to investigate and audit the NESS Fund, Nigeria may risk the strong possibility of losing more money and the Central Bank of Nigeria and the Ministry of Finance may continue to use this Fund as a slush fund with the chances of diverting it to personal use without any public scrutiny.”