….Nigeria Customs Service say agency too poor to pay 5 percent contributory pension

OrderPaperToday– The Senate Committee on Public Accounts has queried the Central Bank of Nigeria and the Office of the Accountant General of the Federation over N596 billion transfers from the federation account to the ecological fund.

The transaction was done between June 1999 and December 2015.

The lawmakers also summoned the secretary general of the federation, (SGF) on the matter.

This followed a report from the Auditor-General of Federation, Anthony Ayine which stated, “Our audit revealed that amount totaling N596,137, 481,709.94 were deducted from the Federation Account to Ecological Fund between June 1999 and December 2015.

“Meanwhile, contrary to the provisions of Section 5(4) of the Revenue Allocation Act which requires that an agency be established to manage the fund, no agency has been established.

“Currently, the National Committee on Ecological Problems (NCEP) is the body responsible for handling ecological problems in the country.

“This committee is located in the Office of the Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF) and its chairman is the honourable minister for Environment, Housing and Urban Development.

“This observation has been a subject of auditor-general’s report over the years without positive response”.

The report also noted that the act was contrary to the provision of Section 5(4) of the Revenue Allocation Act which requires that an agency be established to manage the ecological fund of which no agency had been established to manage the fund.

The account general of the federation, Ahmed Idris, in his response, told the committee that the fund is domiciled in the Central Bank Account while the CBN on the other hand pled with the committee to submit its report on the matter on another day.

Chairman of the committee, Matthew Urhoghide, then told the apex bank to furnish the committee with the statement of account of the Ecological Fund.

He said, “The Central Bank should come and furnish us with statement of account of the Ecological Fund. The SGF should come and brief us on the statement of account of the Ecological Fund.”

Another submission from the report queried the Nigerian Customs Service and Federal Inland Revenue Service for violating the Pension Reform Act 2014.

The Act mandates the remittance of five per cent of the contributory pension to the pension commission.

The report said, “The non contributing to the funds by these agencies is a violation of the Pension Reform Act, 2014. The AGF is required to provide his investment ledger meant for the funds.

“Two, explain the reason for the Custom Service and the FIRS non-compliance to the Pension reform Act.

“Three, sanction the organisations mentioned above for not complying with the Pension Reform Act 2014, in accordance to section 85 of the Act.”

In response, the accountant general, speaking on behalf of FIRS, said the noncompliance of the remittance of 5 per cent of the contributory pension was as a result of insufficient funds.

“Also, I wish to state, as funding improves, the service will comply accordingly. We always engage the agencies themselves on the basis of issues raised by the auditor-general of the federation. This is the response from the Custom Service as documented. We do not want to start changing their responses.

“It’s like we are answering their own questions. Nigeria Customs, with due respect, stands to explain their responses. We are here on their behalf and we are reading their responses. Their response is a very dishonest one. If you are capable of paying salaries, why should it be difficult for you to pay 5 per cent. About sanction as recommended by the OAuGF, we will act accordingly”, he said.

Urghohide lamented the non-appearance of the comptroller general of Customs, Hammed Ali, to defend the matter.

He said, “This is a contributory pension for their own retirees and they say they don’t have the money to contribute. In fact, the two of them, Custom Service and FIRS, that get 7 per cent and 4 per cent for their own operations and they say they don’t have the money.

“Pay five per cent so that you can secure the future of your entire workers and you say you do not have the money? It is totally untrue. When other little organisations are making their contributions, you are the ones saying you do not have the money. It is unfortunate that they are not here. So we are going to stand it down. Their response is very offensive.

“For us, let me not preempt what the committee will say. They are violating the Act and this Act is an act of the National Assembly and they pay 13 months. We are going to stand it down.”

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