“The agitation for the split of the office of the Accountant General… is more of an emotional issue against the Federal Government”.
The Accountant General of the Federation, AGF, Jonah Otunla, has dismissed calls for the split of his office as advocated by many interest groups who appeared before the National Conference Committee on Public Finance and Revenue.
Relevant bodies such as the Revenue Mobilisation, Allocation and Fiscal Commission, as well as the Institute of Chartered Accountants of Nigeria, ICAN, had in their separate submissions to the committee advocated that the office be split by creating an Accountant General for the Federal Government, and another in charge of states and local governments.
Mr. Otunla who spoke briefly with reporters at the Nicon Luxury Hotel, Abuja, after appearing before the committee said the split will rob the president of his powers to manage the country’s economy.
“I have made a very strong case, the agitation for the split of the office of the Accountant General has been on for a very long time, it is more of an emotional issue against the Federal Government as if the federal government is rascally in the running and management of the federation account which is not so.
“The constitution empowers the President to manage the economy and this power should not be taken away from him by whittling down his powers by creating an office which I consider will be duplication of efforts.
“I still strongly support that the Office of the Accountant General of the Federation as it is presently constituted should not be split,” he said.
We are not convinced
A member of the committee, Okon Osung, who also briefly spoke to reporters, said the AGF failed to convince some members of the committee as to the desirability of retaining the office as presently constituted.
“The AGF came and appeared before the committee on the very vexed issue of whether they should split the office of the AGF, he made a very robust defence of that office but we are not satisfied.
“This position about splitting that office has been canvassed over the years by the National Economic Council, NEC, by the Nigeria Governors Forum, by eminent citizens who had earlier appeared before our committee and the Revenue Mobilisation, Allocation and Fiscal Commission and by even the professional body; the Institute of Chartered Accountants of Nigeria(ICAN).
“We think that it is in the best interest of Nigeria’s federal system for that office to be separated. He did not convince the committee, so the position of the committee is still that that office should be split into two,” he said.
Mr. Osung also said the split will not lead to duplication as according to him, Nigeria is operating a federal system which has three tiers of government, arguing that “in that three tiers do you really have a superior partner?, he who pays the piper dictates the tune and as has been canvassed in his presence, there has been a situation where federal government took money from the federation account and used it to finance power generation in the country without agreement by the other two tiers of government”
“There was also a situation where federal government took money to pay the debt owed the Paris club without authorisation, so, we believe those two offices should be separated,” Mr. Osung said.
The final decision of the committee will be known Thursday which is expected to be the final sitting day of the committee.