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Civil societies raise concern over FG’s non-appointment of AGF

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Over 120 civil society organisations (CSOs) and media groups under the aegis of the Civil Society Coalition on Audit in Nigeria (CSCAN) have expressed concern over the Federal Government’s non-appointment of a substantive auditor-general for the federation (AGF), nearly one year after the position became vacant, following the retirement of Adolphus Aghughu.

Olusegun Elemo, executive director at Paradigm Leadership Support Initiative (PLSI), who spoke on behalf of the coalition in Abuja on Friday, described the situation as a breach of constitutional provisions. According to the group, Section 86(3) of the constitution is explicit on how the Senate should authorise an individual to act in the office of the auditor-general, for not more than six months.

“The position of auditor-general of the federation became vacant on September 7, 2022, when Adolphus Aghughu retired. Since then, a substantive auditor-general has not been appointed. Unfortunately, the public official leading the office at the moment is not doing so in an acting capacity but as a director overseeing, a designation not recognised by the Nigerian Constitution”, he said.

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Also, Gabriel Okeowo, country director at BudgIT Foundation, expressed disappointment at the inability of the 9th Assembly to conclude legislative work on the Audit Service Bill 2022, thereby failing to submit the bill to former President Muhammadu Buhari for assent before leaving office.

He said the “House of Representatives passed the Federal Audit Service Bill 2022 in December 2022, and the Senate gave concurrence on March 29, 2023. Still, political interests overrode the nation’s quest for a more potent and effective supreme audit institution”.

“The office of the auditor-general for the federation is not one to be politicised, and the more time it takes us to get an adequate legal framework for the audit office, the longer our hope for a renewed Nigeria is deferred”, he stressed.

Friday Odeh, country director at Accountability Lab Nigeria, said it was disappointing that, as of August 2023, the report of the Auditor-General for the Federation for 2020, 2021, and 2022 is yet to be submitted to the National Assembly.

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“We have no idea how public resources, processes, and policies have been utilised and implemented in 2020, 2021, or 2022. This situation certainly does not reflect the renewed hope of Nigerians for a thriving country”, he said.

The group, therefore, tasked President Bola Tinubu to instruct the Federal Civil Service Commission to immediately conclude the recruitment process for the auditor-general for the federation.

They also want the National Assembly to accelerate passage of the Federal Audit Service Bill; consider amending S.85 (3) of the 1999 Constitution (as amended) to provide the auditor-general with the power to audit statutory corporations, commissions, authorities, and agencies, including all persons and bodies established by an Act of the National Assembly, to avoid a repeat of the Central Bank of Nigeria’s dilemma.

The coalition further charged the office of the AGF to immediately commence implementation of real-time audits of all palliative programmes put in place to cushion the effect of the removal of subsidy on petroleum motor spirit, as well as other social investment programmes.