Thursday, November 12, 2015 9:52 am
The Senate has started investigation into what it called abuse and mismanagement of the Treasury Single Account (TSA) regime, urging the Federal Ministry of Finance and Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) to suspend further payment into the TSA.
This was sequel to a motion sponsored by Dino Melaye (APC, Kogi West) and co-sponsored by 35 others.
Specifically, the Senate observed that the appointment of REMITA – an e-collection agent – is a gross violation of Section 162 (1) of the 1999 Constitution and the Banks and Other Financial Institutions Act 2007.
While commending President Muhammadu Buhari for introducing the policy, the senate wondered if the present administration’s anti-corruption fight will allow a company to collect such huge amount from the system in one day.
It therefore directed its Committee on Finance, Banking and other Financial Institutions and Public Accounts to carry out a holistic investigation on the matter and report back in two weeks.
TheNEWS checks however showed that Remita is an e-Payments and e-Collections solution on a single multi-bank platform.
According to a posting on its website, Remita is in use by many individuals, public and private sector organisations that process over 500 Billion Naira worth of transactions on a monthly basis.
As a payment platform, it was adopted by the Central Bank of Nigeria for the payment and collections of funds on behalf of the Federal Government of Nigeria and used by all 22 commercial banks and over 400 micro finance banks.
It runs on a software provided by Systemspecs, a company based in Lagos chaired by Christopher Kolade. The CEO is John Obaro.
The company started operations in 1991. Thus the company to probe is not Remita, but Systemspecs.
Moving the motion earlier, Melaye said that the Federal Government on Sept. 15 mopped up the sum of N2.5 trillion through REMITA.
He said that the company charged one per cent of any amount it remitted to the TSA, adding that from the N2.5 trillion it remitted into the account, on Sept. 15, the company collected N25 billion.
Melaye argued that the appointment of REMITA as an agent for the operation of the TSA was a contravention of section 162(1) which mandated only the CBN to handle government revenue.
The senator said that REMITA also contravened the BOFIA Act 2007 which forbids any institution which is not incorporated as a bank to carryout banking businesses.
He said that contravention of the BOFIA Act attracted a prison term of 10 years or a fine of N2 million.
Some of the senators who contributed to the motion insisted that a third party like REMITA was not needed to ensure compliance with the TSA policy, let alone a company that should be paid in billions.
They insisted that if the investigation were concluded and some people were found culpable, such persons must be brought to book immediately.
Leader of the Senate, Ali Ndume, who was bewildered by the allegation expressed disbelief that a company could be paid that sum of money ‘’just to transfer money to the CBN’’.
He said that no matter the platform utilised, the amount was too much and as such must be investigated.
“Let us take this seriously and I hope that after investigation, if it is true that somebody is involved in this, then he is a saboteur trying to do things like it was done in the past,’’ Ndume said.
Sen. Eyinaya Abaraibe raised more alarm when he alleged that the amount had even risen to over N60 billion since Sept. 15 when the transfer of 2.5 trillion was made.
He said that much more money had been paid to the TSA through REMITA and the company had religiously taken one per cent of the sums.
Abaribe argued that senators should go beyond party lines to handle such issues bordering on corruption and ripping off Nigerians of their common wealth.
“Somebody made this decision and we must ask who gave this order; who is that person in this country that is so powerful to direct MDAs to pay money into a private account.
“We should not cover anybody in this investigation, no matter how highly placed.
“We are hearing that the money has gone up to 60 billion; one company is taking 60 billion of our money?” he queried.
Deputy Leader of the Senate, Ibn Na’Allah, stressed that no more should the nation allow any company to hide under the role of consultancy to charge outrageously for its services.
Other contributors noted that some people were attempting to derail the APC-led government and that such people must not be spared.
However, some of the over 19 senators who contributed to the motion urged the senate not to take a position until the committee concluded its investigation.