Nigerians slam Tinubu govt over Accountant General, finance commissioners’ UK workshop

GodGift Ifunanya
12 Min Read

At a time Nigerians are going through a lot of economic hardships, with many households finding it extremely difficult to have a square meal per day, the Accountant General of the Federation, AGF, Mrs Oluwatoyin Madein took commissioners of finance in the 36 states of the federation and other government officials to a workshop in the United Kingdom.

The action has continued to draw the ire of quite a number of Nigerians, including civil society organisations.

The masses endured eight harrowing years of Muhammadu Buhari’s administration, and hoped that the Bola Tinubu administration, which kicked off on May 29, 2013, would bring succour to their economic woes.

But, while Nigerians are tightening their belts, waiting patiently and hoping for a better economy in the nearest future, those in government appear unperturbed. They live large and flamboyant, while the masses wallow in abject poverty, lack and misery.

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This explains why there is so much anger and condemnation over the decision by the accountant general of the federation and the commissioners of finance in the 36 states of the federation to hold a workshop in the United Kingdom, instead of holding such an event in Nigeria to save cost.

According to the report, the Office of the AGF held a workshop on Public Financial Management and International Public Sector Accounting Standards, IPSAS, at Copthorne Tara Hotel, Kensington in London, UK, between March 4 and 9, 2024.

The workshop, titled: “Public Financial Management and IPSAS,” assembled the state commissioners of finance and some officials from the Office of the Accountant-General of the Federation, to engage in discussions related to IPSAS and its impact on accountability.

It also tackled other critical areas like accounting and reporting in a hyperinflationary economy, the challenges faced in public financial management implementation in Nigeria, as well as budget implementation challenges in Nigeria.

It is no longer news that Nigeria has been grappling with a persistent foreign exchange crisis, which has worsened the challenges faced by businesses, especially those in the manufacturing sector.

The crisis, according to some experts, stemmed from the government’s decisions to remove fuel subsidies and float the Naira. This has also given birth to inflation which has eroded the purchasing power of consumers, leading to multidimensional hardship on the masses.

According to the International Society for Social Justice and Human Rights, the travel to the UK for the workshop was needless and a waste of the country’s lean financial resources.

The Chancellor of the group, Jackson Omenazu, stressed that the decision to move about 36 members of the implementation committee of the agency, who are also commissioners of finance in the 36 states of the federation to London showed how insensitive the public servants were to the economic plight of the country.

This is the height of financial recklessness and insensitivity to the economic situation of Nigeria today. If it is a workshop as they claimed, the accountant general could have gone and come back to impart the knowledge he got on the other commissioner

“The journey is absolutely unnecessary for him to travel with the 36 commissioners of finance. Looking at the cost of the travel and the economic situation that Nigeria has found itself in today, there is no prudence in such a decision. We need public servants that will key into the situation of this country and salvage the country.

It is cheaper to bring the facilitators to Nigeria to train the participants, looking at the high exchange rate. The accountant general and the approving agency that approved the trip need to be cautioned,” he said in a statement.

On his part, the Chairman of the Centre for Anti-corruption and Open Leadership and President, Centre for the Defence of Human Rights, Debo Adeniran, said it is important to know the content of the courses which made the accountant general and his team travel to London, to ascertain if they were readily available in the country.

He argued that the accountant general should have embraced a cheaper option of ‘training the trainers,’ where if necessary, only a few principal officers of the agency would have travelled for the training and returned to train others.

“Determining whether the journey was frivolous or not depends on the availability and accessibility in Nigeria of the courses they travelled to the UK to get. The world is a global village and we want to know if the course can be readily assessed online here in the country.

“However, to save the cost of foreign exchange needed to travel to London, it would have been cheaper to go for ‘training of the trainers,’ depending on the institution’s mobility,” he said in a statement.

But, the Director of Press in the Office of the AGF, Bawa Mokwa, would not have Nigerians crucify the AGF and his team, when they had a genuine reason for travelling to the UK for the workshop, instead of holding it in Nigeria.

He noted that apart from being an annual event, the workshop was held in London because the facilitators were based in the UK.

He equally noted that the event was approved by the National Economic Council.

“It is an annual event. The OAGF members present at the meeting are sub-committees of the Federal Allocation Account Committee. Members of the implementation committee are commissioners of finance in the 36 states.

“They usually go to the UK to do it annually because the resource persons are resident in the UK and they implement it to the letter,” he added.

However, a lawyer and public affairs commentator, C.I Nnamani, would not buy into Mokwa’s excuse that the facilitators were based in the UK.

He argued that bringing a few facilitators over to Nigeria from the UK would have been much cheaper than sponsoring over 40 participants from Nigeria to the UK.

He told Reporter “What is Mokwa trying to say? We are talking about cutting costs and that what they did was needless and wasteful, and he is talking about the facilitators residing in the UK.

Did they invite the facilitators over to Nigeria and they refused to come? Or is he saying that moving over 40 participants to the UK for the training is cheaper than bringing a few facilitators over to Nigeria from the UK?

“Does he think that Nigerians are idiots? We know why they travelled to the UK for the workshop. It is simply to line up their pockets, and not because any facilitator is based in the UK.”

In his contribution, an economist, Peter Chinagorom, said it was not economically wise to spend the country’s scarce forex on such travels.

He argued that the AGF should have even opted for a virtual study for the team.

“The government has said it would cut down the cost of governance, but what has happened is contrary to the initiative of reducing the cost of governance.

“We are living in a digital world. Do people have to travel to workshops? They don’t necessarily need to travel to be trained. The problem with most of the government agencies is that they budget more for recurrent expenditure instead of capital.

It is not economically wise to transport such a high number of people to London to-and-fro, looking at the high exchange rate. We must do all we can to make the Naira improve its value,” he said in an interview.

Also, expressing his anger over the development, the President of the Arewa Youths Consultative Forum, AYCF, Alhaji Yerima Shettima, lamented that Nigerians who are in positions of authority, most often, abuse the sensibilities of Nigerians.

Yerima told our correspondent: “It is either they believe that we don’t know what they are doing or they are insensitive to the plight of their people.

If not, how can one imagine that at this critical period, rather than looking for a way to reduce expenses in the best interest of the country, some people are travelling to the UK to hold an ordinary workshop.

“They are telling us that they couldn’t find any place out of the 36 states in Nigeria plus the Federal Capital Territory, Abuja, where they could hold a workshop.”

He further argued that they would never have held the workshop in Nigeria because doing so would have denied them the financial benefits, which according to him was even the main reason behind the workshop in the first place.

“They will not hold the workshop in Nigeria because if they do that, the estacode will not be there.

“The estacode is what they are interested in at the expense of the collective interest of Nigerians. As far as they are concerned, Nigeria can go to blazes, as long as they can make their money.

We still live like primitive people, otherwise how can someone explain to me that some people, at this critical moment of economic hardship, would have to go abroad to have a workshop, not with their own hard earned money but the taxpayers’ money?

“This is crazy, and part of the animalistic attitude of some of our leaders that we are talking about.

“This is a trying period that everybody must cut down on expenses. People must behave like human beings not like animals. I demand that the AGF must be sacked immediately,” he submitted.

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