All Progressives Congress (APC) led administration would investigate the alleged missing $20 billion from the coffers of the Nigerian National Petroleum Company (NNPC) if voted into power in next year’s general elections.
Chairman, Progressives Governors’ Forum (PGF) and Governor of Imo State, Owelle Rochas Okorocha, assured that this would be actualised once an APC-led government takes over the leadership mantle after the 2015 polls.
Speaking yesterday in Abuja at a one-day Roundtable of Progressive Governors, Legislators and Civil Society Organisations, with the theme, “Improving Governance through Transparent Budgeting, Accountability and Effective Public Financial Management”, Okorocha maintained that the PDP led government has failed to live up to the expectations of Nigerians.
At the forum were former Head of state, General Muhammadu Buhari, many APC members in the Senate and the House of Representatives, including their leaders, and Governor Rotimi Amaechi of Rivers State.
Earlier on, Buhari had restated his opposition to the on-going National Conference, saying it runs contrary to the provision of the constitution that empowers the National Assembly members to initiate changes or amendments of the constitution.
He noted: “This is why I expressed my personal view about the National Conference. My view is that this is the duty of the National Assembly, it is in place and it is capable of doing it, let it do it and let us save the N7 billion allotted to it for other things.”
Okorocha said: “We must do things differently. Where else in the world, but Nigeria can a staggering $20 billion go ‘missing’? It is a mark of how low public expectations are in the Federal Government that only few people seem concerned about the unmitigated plunder of public revenues? If this state of affairs remain unchallenged, what would happen to Nigeria, if, God forbid, PDP retains power at the Federal level? This is a poser that every right thinking Nigerian must think about.
“The good news is that we will not allow that to happen. An APC government will open the books of government to public scrutiny from day one. We are committed to providing good governance that would promote equity, participation, transparency, accountability and the rule of law in a manner that is effective, efficient and enduring.”
In the communiqué issued at the end of the parley, participants urged the National Assembly to ensure the budgeting process is no longer subjected to the whims and caprices of the Presidency.
There is an “urgent need to put in place a national budget time table to ensure that the budgeting process is not subjected to the whims of the Federal Government; structures and institutions at all levels must be strengthened to ensure accountability in budgeting; the budgeting process must be designed based on sector plans, not mere statements of intended expenditure or mere line budgeting to be executed at the whims of the civil service; and there must be provision for a closing figure for the previous year before any new budget is presented.
“The National Assembly’s oversight function must be reinvigorated to ensure strict compliance with budgetary provisions; Extra-budgetary expenditure which is an impeachable offence must be reined-in and punished where applicable; the envelope system, which guarantees payment amounts to certain lines charges regardless of needs must be discarded; there is need for more vigorous public hearings in relation to budgets and public expenditure processes; and there is urgent need to set up a National Assembly Budget Office similar to the Congressional Budget Office in the USA.”
The communiqué also tasks the APC governors to install some anti-corruption structures that would help them deliver the dividends of democracy to the people.
“Progressive governors should put in place structures and programmes to fight corruption and poverty which undermine transparency, security, participation and fundamental freedom and APC governed states must lead by example and promote citizen participation in the budgeting process.”
The forum also asked the legislators and Civil Society Organisations to “work together to promote public awareness and ensure that the public is able to demand for accountability for all public funds budgeted and spent” and called for the “need for the public to view public funds as their own and respond to the way they are spent.”