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March 1, 2021

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Amidst controversy, Senate confirms FRC chairman who acted for seven years

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Victor Muruako has been confirmed by the Senate as Chairman of the Fiscal Responsibility Commission (FRC).

Mr Muruako has been serving in an acting capacity for seven years after the expiration of the tenure of the pioneer board of the commission on December 4, 2013.

His confirmation comes weeks after President Muhammadu Buhari conveyed his (Mr Muruako) appointment to the Senate. It was, however, not without some arguments among lawmakers.

The chairman of the Senate Committee on Finance, Adeola Olamilekan, presented the panel’s report. He informed the Senate that Mr Muruako possesses the right experience and that there was no petition against him.

He also said the panel was aware that there were no other members of the board. He recommended that the nominee be confirmed and the executive be asked to nominate other members.

Prior to his confirmation, Mr Muruako had not only acted without a board, some staff of the commission also alleged that he appointed himself as the Acting Chairman of the commission in 2014.

According to the policy of the commission, before a new chairman can be inaugurated, there a must be an existing board – after being appointed by the president and screened by the National Assembly.

Section 5(3) of the Fiscal Responsibility Act 2007 states that the Chairman and other members of the Commission other than ex-officio members shall be appointed by the President subject to confirmation by the Senate.

There was, however, no appointment letter or directive from the president when Mr Muruako appointed himself the chairman of the commission.

There are also several allegations accusing him of being involved in corrupt practices in the commission ranging from illegal suspension(s), illegal employment (ghost workers) to irregular signatures, favouritism, among others.

In a petition written against the Acting Chairman, cited by this newspaper in 2018, members of the commission not only accused Mr Muruako of assuming his position legally and accruing the benefits meant for the acting chairman but also being involved in corrupt acts ranging from illegal suspensions to employment of ghost workers, among others.

One of such petitions prompted operatives of the Independent Corrupt Practices (and other related offences) Commission to raid the FRC’s headquarters in Abuja, in July 2017.

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PREMIUM TIMES learnt that the raid followed a petition received from a group of “Concerned Staff of FRC” against Mr Muruako. The petition dated May 29, 2017, signed on behalf of the group by Jonathan Yakubu, was addressed to the Secretary to the Government of the Federation.

READ ALSO: FRC seeks powers to punish defaulting govt ministries, agencies

However, after officials of the ICPC raided the building and carted away several volumes of files and official documents, no legal action was taken.

Mr Muruako had told PREMIUM TIMES that the allegations were not true. Although he said it was not the first time that such allegations were being made, he expressed surprise that they were coming up again.

The Controversy

After Mr Olamilekan’s presentation, the Senate Leader, Abdullahi Adamu, informed his colleagues that the commission should not be operating without a board. He, therefore, advised that the report be stepped down pending when the president sends other nominations.

The Deputy Senate President, Ovie Omo-Agege, was of the same opinion.

“I don’t believe that it is the intent of the president to nominate a sole administrator. This commission requires the full complement of its members.

“My view is that we put this on hold while we await Mr President to bring other nominations. Going ahead to confirm him, is validating this sole administrationship that has been practiced,” he said.

But Mr Olamilekan and the Senate President, Ahmad Lawan, argued otherwise.

Mr Lawan who acknowledged the absence of a board, said nominees can be sent on another day and that it would be unfair not to confirm Mr Muruako after acting for seven years.

This is even as he wondered what the commission has been doing over the years.

“…he has a huge and massive responsibility to turn around this commission for it to perform efficiently and effectively otherwise, for him to be there, seven years acting, and then four years, that will be 11 years… It is simply not acceptable because the FRC is such an important commission that we need to have everybody who is supposed to be there and they have to sit up especially the man who will lead this.

“He has sufficient experience, being there for seven years as an acting chairman.

“I want to plead with us that instead of putting it down, we should go ahead and confirm him. Even if we put it down, this chairman will continue to act. So let him be there with our endorsement but we ask for an expeditious action from the executive to send the remaining nominees for us to screen.”

In a bid to further convince his colleagues with dissenting opinions, he said “we go ahead and do the confirmation but we don’t communicate the confirmation…”

This stirred murmuring among lawmakers for a moment.

Bala Na’Allah (APC, Kebbi South) thereafter told the Senate that confirmation of other nominees can be done separately.

Mr Muruako was then confirmed as chairman of the FRC.

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