By Stanley Melikam
There is a brewing crisis of confidence between tertiary institutions and federal lawmakers looking into the Internally Generated Revenues, IGRs, of Ministries, Departments and Agencies, MDAs, and whether or not they remit the surpluses into the federal purse as stipulated by the Fiscal Responsibility Act 2011.
Several senior officials of universities invited by the committee, including a Vice Chancellor, allege that members of the committee demanded bribes of up to N10 million from the institutions in order to cover up alleged fraud discovered in their finances.
The committee, in turn, alleges that the universities are trying to discredit it to divert attention from the fraud perpetrated by the institutions’ officials.
The fiscal responsibility Act stipulates that 80 per cent of the surplus of IGR, must be remitted into the Consolidated Revenue Fund after all operational costs have been removed,.
The Senate Ad-Hoc Committee on Alleged Misuse, Under Remittance and other Fraudulent Activities in Collection, Accounting and Remittances of Internally Generated Revenue, IGR, by MDAs was constituted on November 30, 2016, but had to delay work till March, 2017 to allow MDAs defend their budgets.
The committee of eight has Solomon Olamilekan as chairman. Other members are Usman Bayero Nafada, Yusuf. A. Yusuf, Joshua Dariye, John Enoh, Fatimah Raji Rasaki, Andy Uba, Yahaya Abdullahi and Rafiu Ibrahim.
In its wisdom, the committee, decided to include federal government tertiary institutions in the country in the probe, in addition to the 601 agencies of the federal government.
On Wednesday May 17, chairman of the committee, Olamilekan accused university administrators of cooking up figures in their yearly accounts to evade payment of operating surpluses, adding that the money involved runs into hundreds of millions of naira..
Speaking during the committee’s investigative hearing of Federal University of Technology, Minna, Niger State, he said the universities failed to pay the money to the government as revenue as required by the Constitution and the Fiscal Responsibility Act.
While it is possible that some of the MDAs, including tertiary institutions, might have engaged in fraudulent diversion of revenues, the lawmakers are using the opportunity to enrich themselves and sacrificing the need for accountability and transparency in the finance of these institutions.
However, sources in some of the tertiary institutions alleged that the committee is demanding huge sums from the institutions in order to cover up alleged fraud.
A Vice Chancellor in one of the affected universities who spoke to icirnigeria.org in confidence disclosed that the senators asked him to bring N10 million.
“Senator (name withheld) asked us the first day we met them what we brought for the committee. It was strange to us because we were not expecting such request considering that universities are not revenue generating agencies. He asked us to bring N10 million. We said we couldn’t afford it but he insisted saying he was preparing for the next election,” he explained.
A senior accountant in another university corroborated this disclosure, saying the committee requested N5 million from them. “I think what they do is to look at your IGR files and then decide how much you should be asked to pay. The larger your revenue size, the bigger your bribe.”
Our reporter was told that the committee wrote all the affected institutions requesting them to appear before it on stipulated dates with their IGR files for five years (Jan 2012-Dec 2016), and list of projects executed within the same period.
Our sources claimed that some of the institutions were intimidated and paid the bribes demanded by the committee.
“Some of the institutions with enough funds paid, but those like us with little funds are finding it difficult to meet their demand. They asked for N10 million but we pleaded that they should accept N3 million they still said No,” a bursar in one of the universities told the icirnigeria.org.
When our reporter asked for comments from a member of the committee, John Enoh, he said he was not aware of any such demands made on the institutions.
“I am not aware of this. May be you should direct this to the chairman,” Senator Enoh said.
Efforts to reach the chairman were unsuccessful as his phone line was busy. He did not reply a text message sent to his phone. But Kayode Odunaro, media adviser to the chairman of the committee, dismissed the allegation as panic move by those involved.
He said the committee had not yet reached the stage of writing a preliminary report of the probe when such allegations could be credible.
“They are still at the stage of trying to reconcile figures. Some of the institutions were presenting conflicting figures. You have a situation where the money collected from students did not correspond to number of students. There was even a Vice Chancellor who said he did not know the number of students in his university. So these people are afraid of what may come and so they want to discredit the committee.”
So far only 12 federal universities have appeared before the committee. Chairman of the committee, Olamilekan, said on Wednesday that the universities presented “obviously fictitious documents and figures all in an attempt to exonerate themselves from non-remittances of revenue generated while completely expending all revenues generated on sometimes frivolous expenditure heads.”
The Vice Chancellor of one of the universities that have appeared before the statement said Olamilekan’s comments were meant to put more pressure on the institutions to pay the bribes demanded of them.
Some of the universities that have appeared include: University of Abuja, University of Nigeria Nsukka, University of Ibadan, Federal University Gusau and Federal University of Technology Minna.