By Cyril Austim
I like Kemi Adeosun, the finance minister of the country. She is erudite, eloquent and knows how to present complex economic problems in ways the masses can understand.
Just last week, I even downloaded her presentation at the 2017 Platform event just to listen to her again.
Appointing her the finance minister was one of the master strokes of this administration. In Kemi Adeosun, Buhari had a worker who was willing to roll up her sleeves and does the dirty work without allowing the razzmatazz of ‘Foreign-trained’ get into her head.
Basically, she is a very likable person; at least, as far as her job as finance minister goes.
But this past week has being a testing time for her. One of Nigeria’s most reputable online news medium, not Nigeria News, reported how Kemi Adeosun colluded with the Accountant General of the Federation, Ahmed Idris, and the Senate President, Bukola Saraki, to unilaterally transfer ₦10 billion to the coffers of the National Assembly(NA).
The report stated this was an extra-budgetary allocation to the National Assembly since it wasn’t part of the almost ₦120 billion the National Assembly budgeted for itself in the 2017 appropriation bill.
I believed the report immediately. The authors of the report did not pluck an arbitrary figure like magicians to dazzle the reading public with. It was the result of painstaking investigation gleaned from official documents of the government. So it wasn’t as if it was made up.
The bottom line of the whole gist was this: Kemi Adeosun transferred ₦10 billion to the National Assembly. The Accountant General of the Federation knew about it. And the National Assembly, via official documents, had already acknowledged receipt of the said amount.
The denials from the parties implicated were swift and predictable. From the office of the Senate President, Bukola Saraki denied collecting money from the Finance Minister.
The statement claimed that if any amount was passed on to the NA, the Clerk of the NA was in a better position to address the issue since he would be the one to acknowledge receipt of the said amount.
He didn’t stop there. He went further to threaten the news medium with litigation if they didn’t retract the report and issue an apology.
The attempt to rubbish that report took a different tone from the office of the finance minister. The minister didn’t deny the amount was given to the National Assembly.
She said, through her aide, that the money was part of the ₦20 billion budgeted in the 2017 appropriation bill for the payment of local contractors in the country. And the ₦10 billion was approved to the NA to offset their debts to contractors.
Sadly, instead of addressing the core issue like the intelligent lady she is, she went for diversionary tactics which are common among public offices caught with their hands in the cookie jar.
Basically, she urged Nigerians to ignore the report because it was sponsored by the enemies of the government who are determined to paint her and the government in a bad light.
That she did not attempt to address the salient issues of the report is the biggest red flag.
First of all, she refused to clarify why she didn’t see anything wrong in giving money to the NA Assembly to pay contractors. The budget of the Nation’s Assembly already covers for expenditures like that. And they have been given the money in full without any deductions.
Again, such large extra-budgetary allocation can’t be carried out without approval from the National Assembly. In other words, it was illegal.
Another issue she refused to address was the list of contractors the National Assembly claimed it wanted to pay with the money. A large percentage of them are not even qualified to get federal contracts in the first place. Many of them are also not registered with the Corporate Affairs Commission.
For those who want to know, Bukola Saraki used part of that money to purchase SUVs for his colleagues.
How can Kemi Adeosun dig herself out of this hole now? We know nothing is going to happen to her as far as her job is concerned. But the damage done to her reputation is what is at stake here.
Saraki doesn’t care how much mud is thrown at him. He has been in the trenches for so long repelling attacks on his character that he doesn’t care about his reputation anymore.
His supporters have successfully changed the narrative as the unceasing attempts by Buhari and elements in his government to malign his good name. So this is nothing new to him.
The whole incidence calls into question the apparent frosty relationship between the Executive and the National Assembly. Is it possible that the recurring public spat between The National Assembly and the Executive arm of government is just an elaborate smokescreen to serve as cover for illegalities like this?
It is so sad that the finance Minister allowed herself to get into a mess like this. People like me who hitherto were cheering her on are now scrambling around with no crotch to support our belief in her integrity.
We are watching and hoping a reasonable explanation can be given. But so far, the signs are not good.