It has been discovered that multiple ministries, departments, and agencies (MDAs) in Nigeria have collectively funneled over N159 billion into private accounts over the past six years, violating financial transparency regulations outlined in Chapter Seven, Section 713 of Nigeria’s Financial Regulations 2009.
Last month’s suspension of Minister Betta Edu, following her authorization of N585.2 million public funds into a private account, has brought attention to a widespread issue within the Nigerian government. A thorough examination of data from Govspend, a platform tracking government spending, exposes the extent of this financial malpractice.
The New Partnership for African Development’s Nigerian office is implicated, having paid N1.5 billion in 111 tranches to an individual named Afangekung Mfon Okon. Other MDAs involved in multiple transactions to private accounts include the Ministry of Information and Culture, Ministry of Communications and Digital Economy, Ministry of Power, Ministry of Women Affairs, Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), Office of the Accountant General of the Federation, and the Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF).
FIRS Scandal: Over N13 Billion Misappropriated in 2023
In 2023 alone, a staggering N13.6 billion was improperly channeled into private accounts, with the Office of the SGF, Ministry of Women Affairs, Ministry of Finance, Budget and National Planning, and various parastatals implicated. Notably, the Office of the Special Adviser to the President on Niger Delta directed N4.72 billion to individual accounts of camp leaders, triggering concerns about the misuse of funds in regions marked by socio-economic challenges.
The scandal-ridden Ministry of Humanitarian Affairs, Disaster Management and Social Development also contributed to this financial misconduct, funneling at least N918.5 million into private accounts, adding to the controversy surrounding former ministers Sadiya Umar Farouq and Betta Edu.
Complicit Parastatals: EFCC, Police, Human Rights Commission, AGF Office, and More
Compounding the issue, five parastatals, including the EFCC and Police, directed billions into private accounts, while 12 others were involved in transactions totaling millions. Notably, the EFCC, entrusted with upholding financial integrity, paid N211.7 million into two private accounts between May and October the previous year.
Prominent figures, including former President Muhammadu Buhari and Vice President Yemi Osinbajo, received severance allowances in known transactions. However, controversial payments, such as the N89.8 million to former police spokesperson Frank Mba in 2019, raise questions about financial prudence.
Legal Perspective: Violation of Financial Regulations 2009
Chapter Seven, Section 713 of Nigeria’s Financial Regulations 2009 explicitly prohibits the payment of personal money into a government bank account and vice versa. Any officer found paying public money into a private account is deemed to have acted with fraudulent intention. Commenting on these findings, former Director-General of the Bureau of Public Service Reforms, Joe Abah, stressed the importance of transparent procurement processes.
However, Deputy Director of Fiscal Accounts Jame Abalaka pointed to Section 1001 of the regulations, which allows for ‘imprest’ in certain circumstances. This provision outlines specific cases where public money can be paid into private accounts, emphasizing the need for clarity and adherence to regulations.
As investigations continue, the gravity of financial irregularities within Nigerian MDAs demands urgent attention and corrective measures to restore public trust.