Thursday, 9 April 2020

Nigerians Call For Probe Of AGF Office Fire Incident

The Federal Government was asked yesterday to launch an investigation into the fire incident which destroyed a section of the office of the Accountant General of the Federation (AGF) in Abuja yesterday.

The office is home to the records of revenue generation and disbursements among the three tiers of governments. It also archives the government’s fiscal accountability and transparency monitoring platform (Treasury Single Account).In addition, it stocks all records of states’ domestic and foreign indebtedness.

The Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) said there must be a full-scale probe into the circumstances surrounding the inferno, giving its uncanny timing and the significance of the offices involved.

“Nigerians are anxious to know those behind this wicked arson because the fire outbreak reportedly occurred on the part of the building, which hosts critical offices including the Treasury Single Account, Funds, Federation Account Allocation Committee and Revenue Department,” the party said yesterday in a statement by National Publicity Secretary Kola Ologbondiyan.

“Our party expresses shock that the fire incident came on the heels of our heightened calls for a forensic audit into the hazy oil subsidy regime of the President Buhari-led administration for which trillions of naira are being claimed to have been spent.

“This is in addition to recent demands for an investigation into allegations of fraud and diversion of COVID-19 intervention funds, as well as the social investments programme of the Buhari government since 2015.

“Already, the National Assembly, riding on the gale of demands by Nigerians, and championed by the PDP, has raised queries on spending in respect of social incentives programmes.”

It added: “Our party, therefore, calls for an immediate investigation to determine the actual cause of the fire, as well as ensure that critical documents and data on government revenue and expenditure are immediately retrieved.The PDP also demands that the complex be immediately cordoned off to enable an uncompromised inquest into this ugly incident.”

Similarly, the Human Rights Writers Association of Nigeria (HURIWA) urged Nigerians to demand a forensic investigation by independent criminal forensic scientists. It said this would ascertain the real motives or otherwise behind the incident barely 24 hours after the Senate uncovered an alleged monumental heist in the Federal Government’s schools feeding programmes.

In a statement by National Coordinator Emmanuel Onwubiko and National Media Affairs Director Zainab Yusuf, HURIWA said Nigerians must not accept any unconvincing stories but insist the government comes clean on how it has been unable to transparently render accounts of revenues generated from internal and external sources.

HURIWA said too many things were wrong with how Federal Government officials administer public finance.It questioned claims in the media that the Nigeria Customs Service (NCS) and the Federal Inland Revenue Services (FIRS) generated billions in revenue since 2015, yet the finance minister goes cap-in-hand begging for foreign loans.

“Something is not adding up,” HURIWA said concerning the “sudden fire incident at the office of the Accountant General of the Federation barely few hours after serious suspicion of misuse of public funds running into billions was raised by the usually pliant and docile National Assembly.”

It said the incident was too coincidental, coming at a time of mounting accusations of fraud and failure by the Federal Government to account for how the billions budgeted for the payment of N20,000 COVID-19 palliatives to poor Nigerians were spent.

“HURIWA strongly believes that the fire is too suspicious to be dismissed as a mere accident or happenstance. In Nigeria, public officials are known to always set their offices ablaze in a bid to cover up their tracks. Questions are being asked on how over N60 billion was reportedly blown away by the Federal Government in the guise of implementing conditional cash transfer to some ghosts and some political nitwits rather than to the millions of poor Nigerians.

“How did this cash get shared and frittered away in a few hours? To whom did this humongous cash get to, and where are the records since the National Assembly only yesterday raised the alarm? And 24 hours later, there was a fire at the office of the Accountant General of the Federation?

“We are not accusing anyone of theft. We have not called any officer of the Federal Government a thief. But certainly, we smell a rat. What we know is that this fire is too suspicious to be dismissed as a mere accident or happenstance.”

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