By his refusal to assent or reject a crucial audit bill passed by the country’s legislature several months ago, President Muhammadu Buhari is jeopardising measures aimed at improving financial accountability and transparency among government officials and organisations.
The president’s failure to sign the bill into law is at variance with his avowed fight against corruption.
Passed by the National Assembly in July 2018, the Federal Audit Service Bill seeks to empower the country’s auditor-general to penalise government agencies and officials who refuse to submit their financial statement for audit.
For instance, the bill empowers the auditor-general to withhold the emoluments of defaulting officials. It even recommends jail terms for erring officials.
Whilst the president’s disinterest towards the bill may be extending the lifeline enjoyed by unscrupulous officials, it is also a slap on the country’s constitution.
Nigeria’s 1999 Constitution provides for a 30-day period within which the president shall “signify that he assents or that withholds assent” to a bill.
The audit bill was sent to President Buhari in January, more than double the 30-day window within which the constitution expects Mr Buhari to either sign or decline assent.
The presidency refused to speak on Mr Buhari’s inaction over the bill, considered key to his much-vaunted anti-corruption fight.