The Senate on Wednesday urged the Central Bank of Nigeria and the Ministry of Finance to suspend lodgements into Treasury Single Account to allow investigation of alleged fraud in the system.
The upper chamber had in a motion moved by Senator Dino Melaye (APC Kogi West) raised the alarm over alleged payment of N25 billion to one e-collection firm, REMITA, in one day as one per cent of monies transferred.
It resolved that suspension of payment into the TSA would ensure that no further money was taken by the company in the event that the allegations were found to be true.
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.
Moving the motion earlier, Melaye, said the Federal Government on September 15mopped up the sum of N2.5 trillion through REMITA.
He said 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 September 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 REMITA also contravened the BOFIA Act 2007, which forbids any institution that is not incorporated as a bank to carry out banking businesses.
He said 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”.
Ndume said 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.
Senator Enyinnaya Abaraibe raised more alarm when he alleged that the amount had even risen to over N60 billion since September 15 when the transfer of N2.5 trillion was made.
Abaribe said 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.
He said: “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 N60 billion.
“One company is taking N60 billion of our money?”
The 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 All Progressives Congress-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.