31 January 2013

Nigeria: Audit Query - Jega to Appear Before Reps Tomorrow

Abuja — Indications emerged Wednesday that the Chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, Prof. Attahiru Jega, might appear before members of Public Accounts Committee of the House of Representatives to clear the air on the query raised against the commission's account by the Auditor-General of the Federation.

The decision by the INEC boss to visit the National Assembly and clear the air on the audit report, which had been laid before the House last year, followed threats by the PAC to order his arrest by the Inspector General of Police for repeatedly failing to appear before the committee.

The PAC committee chairman, Solomon Adeola, had warned that Jega risked being arrested and detained should he fail to hand over himself to the committee.

But a source close to the commission told Vanguard that Jega had been away from the country for over a month and had not seen the letter from the PAC inviting him to the House to respond to the audit query raised by the AGF with regards to the operations of the commission between 2003 and 2011.

The source said that Jega being a law-abiding public officer would not in any way decline any invitation from the lawmakers and would therefore appear before them tomorrow to respond to the audited report.

The Chairman of the National Population Commission, Chief Festus Odimegwu, who is also facing the same threat of arrest and detention by the PAC, is also said to be preparing to meet the lawmakers to respond to the queries raised by the AGF regarding the financial activities of the NPC between 2003 and 2009.

An aide of the NPC boss claimed that the man had been away for some time but would soon return to respond to the issue raised by the PAC.

"Chief Odimewgu is a man of honour and has no reason whatsoever to disobey any invitation from the National Assembly and he will certainly meet them once he is around," the aide, who pleaded anonymity, said.

Efforts to speak with the Chief Press Secretary to the INEC Chairman, Mr. Kayode Idowu, proved abortive, as he insisted that he had no comments to make on the matter.

The AGF queries were raised on the expenditures of INEC from the audited accounts of INEC for year 2003 up to 2011 while that of NPC was from 2003 to 2009.

The decision to issue the warrant on the two commission Chairmen was taken by the Chairman of the House of Representative Committee on Public Account (PAC) Solomon Olamilekan Adeola after he was briefed on the refusal of the heads of both commissions to appear before the House.

Olamilekan at yesterday's the sitting of the committee told members that the heads of INEC and NPC have spurned the invitations of the committee 5 times and therefore sought the permission of his members to issue a warrant on the affected officials for their recalcitrance. The committee in a voice vote granted him permission to do so.

Condemning the heads of INEC and NPC for refusing to turn up as invited Olamilekan insisted that the committee will issue a warrant of arrest on the duo today and compel the Inspector General of Police, to bring both of them to the committee sittings next Wednesday.

Castigating both men for refusing to show up despite several invitations extended to them, Olamilekan said "anyone who occupies public office must show due diligence and accountability and this the parliament will demand of them whether they like it or not.

Said he:"When INEC looked for power to be on first line charge, it ran to parliament and its problem was solved".

" why is it now afraid of showing up to give account of what it has spent? he asked.

"We insist the head of these organisations must show up to give proper account of what they used monies allocated to them for.

"Nobody will be allowed to behave as if they are bigger than Nigeria as a country.

"INEC will soon be making budget for 2015 elections, but it must first clear all doubts raised on its award of contracts for 2003 and 2007 elections.

"This we expect the commission to do, but since they have refused to turn up willingly, we will tomorrow (today) issue a warrant asking the police to bring them down here next friday to clear all doubts raised by the auditor general against their audited accounts"

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