- No money is missing – Presidency
- Saraki: No amount of intimidation will stop investigation
President Muhammadu Buhari and Senate President, Bukola Saraki appear headed for imminent collision course over the sum of N25billion allegedly paid as commission to an e-collection firm, REMITA, engaged for the implementation of the Treasury Single Account, TSA policy by the Federal Government. Saraki yesterday said the Senate would continue with its investigation into the alleged riff up by the consultancy firm, System Specs, while President Buhari insisted no money is in actual sense missing.
Dr. Saraki’s insistence in investigating the alleged fraud was in reaction to a motion moved by Senator Dino Melaye (APC Kogi West) over a newspaper article allegedly blackmailing the upper legislative chamber investigating the alleged fraud. The upper legislative chamber had on November 11 informed through a motion that REMITA collected N25 billion in one day as one per cent commission of monies transferred to TSA.
It therefore directed its Committees on Finance, Banking and other Financial Institutions and Public Accounts to investigate the matter and report back in two weeks.
Saraki, however, vowed that no amount of intimidation will stop the Senate from investigating the alleged fraud, explaining that it was part of the Senate’s constitutional duties to point out any individual or group’s action that would be injurious to the country.
The Senate President said, “No amount of either blackmail or intimidation will stop us from doing the work we have to do”.
“We have a responsibility here to ensure that there are no leakages in government funds and if there are, we will call the attention of the public and do whatever it takes to salvage the situation; it is our responsibility.
“The fact about the TSA will come out and everybody will have opportunity before the committee to state the fact, the facts will speak for themselves’’, he stressed.
He added that, “It is time the committees are inaugurated so that they can start work immediately because this matter came up last week and we have set up three committees to take a look at the issue”.
Saraki later referred the write-up and letters cited by Senator Melaye to the Senate Committee on Ethics, Privileges and Public Petitions and given one week to submit its report.
However, the Federal Government denied the allegation that the sum of N25 billion was missing from the Treasury Single Account, TSA, describing the allegations as frivolous.
In a press statement issued in Abuja by Segun Adeyemi, Special Adviser to the Minister of Information, Mr. Lai Mohammed, the minister said if those behind the allegation had allowed themselves some measure of honesty, they would have realised that there has not and there will be no such impunity under the administration of President Muhammadu Buhari.
Mohammed said: ‘’It is understandable that the psyche of those who are making the frivolous allegations concerning the TSA has been badly affected by the impunity that permeated the country under the immediate past administration, when un-appropriated funds were freely used to finance elections and as an extension of personal piggy banks.
‘’But the lies that have been wilfully disseminated by scandalmongers over the TSA cannot and will not fly, because it was precisely to put an end to such impunity that Nigerians voted massively for President Buhari, who has an unblemished reputation for integrity, due process, transparency and the rule of law,” he said.
Assuring Nigerians that no one has tampered with the TSA funds, Mohammed said though the TSA was initiated under the previous administration of former President Goodluck Jonathan, the reason it has begun to enjoy a new lease of life and attract national attention is because of the political will and transparency demonstrated by President Buhari.
He added: ‘’Those behind the rumour that a single company, System Specs, made N25 billion from charging one per cent of TSA funds that passed through the company’s software, REMITA, may need to re- turn to elementary school to get some lessons in arithmetic.
‘’This is because in order for one per cent charge to fetch N25 billion, the funds accruing into the TSA must have reached N2.5 trillion. Yet, the total amount of funds in the TSA to date is still much less than N2 trillion.
‘’More importantly, at the time the Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria, CBN, ordered that all monies that were erroneously charged as ‘revenue’ be returned to the TSA late last month, the TSA had less than N800 billion.
“It is therefore shocking that anyone could attempt to mislead the public by raising a false alarm that a firm made N25 billion in TSA charges.”
Raising the motion, Senator Melaye had expressed concern over the write-up which alleged that the Senate was working against President Muhammadu Buhari’s effort to implement the TSA.
He pointed out that it was the motion on the alleged TSA fraud and decision of the Senate to probe it that led System Specs to refund the one per cent it collected from mopped up funds to Central Bank of Nigeria, CBN.
“The writer said we are against the change agenda of Mr President because we raised the abnormality going on with the implementation of the TSA.
“We did not at any time in this hallowed chamber implicate President Muhammadu Buhari of being involved in TSA fraud.
“We will not stop carrying out our legislative duties for fear of being blackmailed. The motion moved last week had two prayers.
“The first thing we did was to thank Mr President and commend him for the implementation of the TSA and for anyone to say the Senate is fighting Mr. President is myopic, parochial and unacceptable.
“I have a letter here that I am going to lay with this paper, written by the Director, Banking and Payment of CBN to the Managing Director of System Specs. The CBN categorically stated that they should remit the one per cent that they collected.
“I also have a letter here by the managing director of that company to the Accountant General of the Federation and the Governor of CBN that have completely buttressed and elicited our decision last week.
“So for people to blackmail us as irresponsible, it is not acceptable to me and the Senate.“Never would we allow blackmail and political and economic bigots to destroy the people. We are for the people and we will stand in defence of public interest”, he said.