8 May 2009

Nigeria: Reps Oppose Bill Seeking More Powers for Auditor-General

Abuja — At Thursday's plenary, a bill that sought more independence for the nation's Auditor General was refused a second reading at the House of Representatives.

Uche Ekwunife (PDP Anambra State), sponsored the bill for an "Act to provide for additional powers and functions for the office of the Auditor General of the Federation and for matters connected therewith," detailing in her submission that, "if the office of the AG is not independent enough, it will be difficult to tackle corruption.

"As I speak, that office does not exist, because what we have is incapacitated by Section 85 of the Constitution. It has to be independent of the executive."

Ekwunife said Ministries, Departments and Agencies of government cite a part of the Section 85 that says the AG could only perform periodic checks on them, to dodge auditing.

The bill also seeks to create an audit commission.

Members, who opposed the bill, argued principally that the office of the AG is provided for in the Constitution, and as such, any additional powers given to it, would require the amendment of the Constitution and not just an arbitrary legislative provision.

"Granting any more powers than what is prescribed for in the Constitution can only be treated as an amendment to the Constitution," said Agoda Halims (PDP, Delta State).

House Deputy Minority Whip, Femi Gbajabiamila (AC Lagos State), Leo Ogor (PDP Delta State) and many others spoke against the bill's provision.

But the supporters said as much as that argument holds, it is only effectual if the suggested provisions are contrary to constitutional stipulations.

The voice vote that followed the debate had Ekwunife challenging the outcome and calling for House division that will allow for counting. The division has been put on notice to be carried out on a later date.

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