Edun, AGF Deny Involvement in CBN Remita Contract

The Attorney-General of the Federation (AGF), Lateef Fagbemi and Minister of Finance and Coordinating Minister of the Economy, Wale Edun have denied knowledge of the contract entered into by the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) and Systemspecs/Remita for revenue collection across ministries, departments and agencies (MDAs).

A whopping sum of N34.311 trillion revenue was generated through REMITA platform into the Federation Account between 2015 and 2022.

Systemspecs is a financial technology company that has been providing Remita payment gateway for majority of government payments since 2015.

The duo gave the insight during the resumed investigative hearing into the motion on ‘Alleged revenue leakages through the Remita platform and non-compliance substantively with the standard operating procedure and other allied service level agreements,’ held at the instance of House Committee on Public Accounts, chaired by Rep. Bamidele Salam.

During separate presentations, both parties expressed grave concerns over issues bothering on discrepancies and irregularities in the procurement process, signalling potential lapses in transparency and accountability.

The AGF who was represented by the Deputy Director, Yusuf Bala Mohammed, while responding to the committee’s question on whether Ministry of Finance is aware of the agreement between the Apex Bank and SystemSpecs said: “I can confirm to the Committee that the Ministry is not aware.

“It is entirely an honoured practice that all agreements that the Federal Executive Council agreed on must be vetted and cleared by the Attorney-General, the chief lawyer of the federation.

“Then, it is another practice which is anchored on the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria that all agreements that commit the Government to an amount up to N50 million and above have to be cleared and vetted by the Attorney-General.

“There is a circular on that. So, I don’t know if there is such an agreement, it could have passed through the Ministry of Justice.

“The vetting is not only for the format of the agreement, but also the process. We review the process leading to the agreement, that is why we call it clearance.”

Worried by the minister’s presentation, Hon. Salam, who asked for details on the ministry’s role in the agreement between CBN and SystemSpecs, said: “What is your role in the agreement between the federal government of Nigeria and Remita to provide those services they are providing for collection of revenue from ministries, departments and agencies of the federal government of Nigeria? What is or was the role of the Federal Ministry of Finance in this agreement?”

In his response, Permanent Secretary of Federal Ministry of Justice, Mr. Okokon Udo, said: “It is the office of the Accountant-General of the Federation that is in charge of receipts and payment through Remita on behalf of the Federal Government.

“When the TSA was enforced, MDAs were asked to make payment to TSA electronically. There was no physical payment expected from MDAs. It was now the Central Bank, the banker of Government that provided the banking infrastructure and the platform through which this payment would be made.

“So, the agreement was between the Central Bank of Nigeria and the payment system provider which is the SystemSpecs. So, there is no record that the Federal Ministry of Finance signed an agreement with the consultant who provides the platform.”

In his remarks, Hon Salam argued: “From the record that we have, we do not also see the signature of the Accountant-General, but I want to ask whether this is a standard practice?

“Will you consider this as standard practice that an agreement that touches on collection of revenue for the government running into several trillions of naira should be executed without the input participation, endorsement, and approval of the Federal Ministry of Finance?”

In his response, Mr. Udo said: “I think there should have been serious involvement of the Federal Ministry of Finance being that what we are talking about involves the monetary aspect and the fiscal aspect.

“Monetary in the sense that the banking sector is under the Central Bank of Nigeria and we are talking about the government revenue and expenditure. Revenue that will go into an account and payment that will come out of the account and this has to do with the fiscal aspect.

“I think from the beginning there was a little mistake and that is what we are trying to work to correct, also opening and making the system more robust will accommodate other solution providers and introduce competition and efficiency to the system. We are still working on that, we have seen the lacuna and we want to address it.

“We will come up with measures that there is effective collaboration and cooperation. There should be a synergy that will lead to the achievement of good results” Mr. Udom stressed.