The House of Representatives has directed the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) to remit the sum of N1.015 billion, being double payment of the sum paid to a South African company that printed 65 million ballot papers for the conduct of the 2007 presidential election.
The House also directed the bank to provide it the evidence of such payment and remittance.
The Chairman of the House Public Accounts Committee (PAC), Adeola Solomon Olamilekan, handed down the verdict yesterday after weeks of public hearing on the matter, in which the CBN, the State House and the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) were fingered.
The committee also queried the charge of one per cent made on the transaction by the CBN, totalling about N10 million, why there was no quotation or job order from the South African firm.
It asked why was INEC sidelined in the deal, being the sole conductor of elections in the country.
But INEC got a clean bill as it was established that it was completely oblivious of the transactions and expenditures regarding the ballot papers contract.
However, PAC insisted that the commission should provide evidence of receipt of the ballot papers.
According to Olamilekan, the transaction was shady, in doubt and not legitimate, “because the figures as approved by the federal government wasn’t the actual amount remitted to the South African company.
On the explanation by the CBN that there was just one payment as the other mandate emanating from the Office of the Accountant General of the Federation (OAGF) was not executed, the chairman said: “all these explanations are known to the CBN alone. All we know is that there is evidence of double transaction. The CBN paid the South African High Commission and the State House.”
The Permanent Secretary of the State House, Emmanuel Ogbile, told the committee that he was not aware of the issuance of double cheques, bearing the same amount, to the South African firm and his office.
“I have no access to these cheques,” he said at first, and later contradicted himself by admitting that “there were cheques. But they were the same money, same payment and not double payments.”
He said the State House issued cheques from its accounts with the CBN to avoid delay in the printing of the ballot papers, stressing that when the ministry of finance released the money, as instructed via a memo to the minister from the then Chief of Staff to the President, dated April 17, 2007, the State House was reimbursed.
On his part, the Director of Banking and Financial System at the CBN, Dipo Balogun, corroborated Ogbile’s claim that there was no double transaction.
“There was just one payment. There was a mandate from the OAGF but it was not executed. I don’t know why it was not. The only mandate executed is that on the cheque from State House,” he said.
In his submission, the chairman of INEC, Prof. Attahiru Jega, reiterated that the commission checked its record and found no evidence of any payment to it in 2007.
“INEC didn’t budget or request any such money. We did not receive any mandate from CBN to effect any payment,” Jega explained.
He, however, stated that the commission was aware that the Nigeria Security Printing and Minting Company (NSPMC) did not capture the picture of the Action Congress (AC) presidential candidate on the ballot paper. â€œTherefore, the need arose, following a judgment by the Supreme Court to that effect that this must be done. So, the presidency offered to handle the contract. Eventually, it wrote to INEC to print the ballot papers.â€
Despite this, Jega said INEC had no record of the contract transaction and no expenditure of same.
“If there are record of such, we will like to see them so that we will go back and cross-check,” he suggested.