The Senate has threatened an arrest warrant for the Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, the Minister of State, Petroleum, Timipre Sylva and Minister of Power, Engr. Saleh Mamman over their continued refusal to honour its invitation to answer audit queries against them.
Addressing Journalists in Abuja, Chairman, Senate Committee on Public Accounts, Senator Matthew Urhoghide, Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, Edo South vowed that the Senate will not hesitate to invoke its exclusive right to issue the warrant, just as he said that it has become a very ugly situation where heads of Ministries, Departments, Agencies, MDAs of government charged with public functions, vehemently refuse to give an account of the expenditure made by them.
He said that the Committee has no choice but to compel the defaulting agencies to appear before it in line with Section 89 of the Constitution if they persist in their behaviour.
Also to be arrested over their refusal to honour invitations extended to them by the Upper Chamber to answer queries of 2015 expenditure as presented to the Senate by the office of Auditor General for the Federation are the Minister of Women Affairs and Social Development, Mrs Pauline Tallen, her counterpart in the Ministry of Solid Minerals Development, Arc. Olamilekan Adegbite and the Chairman, National Population Commission, NPC.
According to Urhoghide, the MDAs that have failed to honour the invitation of the Committee, include the Ministry of Information, Culture and National Orientation; Ministry of Petroleum Resources; Ministry of Power; Ministry of Women Affairs; Ministry of Solid Minerals and the National Population Commission (NPC).
He said, “Over a month ago, we wrote to them to come and answer the audit queries raised against them by the Auditor-General of the Federation in its 2015 Audit Report.
“But they have deliberately and irresponsibly failed to honour our invitation. Their failure to appear before this Committee amount to outright disobedience to constituted authority.”
Urhoghide who lamented that the hindrances caused by the failure of the agencies to appear before the panel is part of the reasons why Nigerians often accuse the National Assembly of not discharging its duties, said, “It is only in Nigeria that people will spend government’s money and fail to show up to defend their expenditure.”
According to him, heads of the agencies give excuses that are not tenable for not honouring the invitation, just as he said the excuse the Ministry of Information and Culture gave was that the consultants handling the consultancy projects and the contractors for the year 2015 are not available due to the restrictions occasioned by the coronavirus.
On the part of Ministry of Petroleum Resources, the Ministry stated that the failure to honour the Senate’s invitation was due to the meeting of Directors of African Petroleum Producers Organisation scheduled for Thursday, 11th June 2020, the same day of the Committee‘s Public Hearing, just as the Ministry of Power said that it was still producing documents for the Hearing.
For the Federal Ministry of Women Affairs and Social Development, it stated that it was seeing the query for the first time and needed time to get a copy of the query and prepare relevant documents for its appearance before the Committee.
On the part of the Federal Ministry of Solid Minerals Development, it said that it needed more time to prepare adequately National Population Commission, just as the National Population Commission said also that it needed more time to prepare adequatel
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