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FCT High Court alleged with funds misuse

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By Usman Oladimeji

Various anomalies were said to have been committed by the court.

According to the latest audit report from the Office of the Auditor-General of the Federation (OAuGF), the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) High Court, Abuja incurred a whopping ₦1.5 billion in financial irregularities between January 2019 and December 2020. Hadiza Dodo, the Chief Registrar of the court has been called out in the 2020 report to clarify and justify these expenses. Despite the fact that the transgressions had occurred before Dodo assumed the position of Chief Registrar in November 2021, the report specifically instructed the current officeholder to reimburse and restore the funds to the national treasury.

At the time when the questioned transactions were made, Muhammad Mustapha Adamu, who was appointed as a chief judge of the FCT High Court in November 2021, was the incumbent chief registrar of the court. Ishaq Bello, who had retired on 5 January, 2021, he served as the Chief Judge of the FCT High Court. Various anomalies were said to have been committed, such as misuse, diversion, squandering, and misappropriation of public funds. Additionally, violations include failing to remit taxes and making payments to contractors without proper documentation or for work that was never executed. A specific instance highlighted in the report pertains to the allocation of ₦2 billion (equivalent to ₦2,088,716,000) distributed among six companies for the acquisition of 77 vehicles.

A contractor was paid ₦42.8 million for diesel supply with no proof.

During the auditing process for the year under review, auditors observed a total of 38 vehicles, with a combined value of ₦1 billion (₦1,034,800,000). However, 39 vehicles, valued at ₦1,053,916,000, were not included in the auditing procedure. Furthermore, the report revealed that a sum of ₦322.7 million was paid to two contractors for delivering diesel and performing general cleaning services. However, during the auditing process, essential documentation such as store receipts, vouchers, job completion certificates, and a record of payments to cleaners were not made available for auditing.

The report highlighted another instance where a contractor was paid ₦42.8 million for diesel supply, as stated in the payment vouchers of 20 and 28 in February 2018. However, there was no proof of actual delivery or issuance of diesel to the intended recipients. Additionally, the report raised concerns about the improper involvement of an Insurance broker. It revealed an expenditure of ₦60.4 million in this irregular engagement paid to an insurance broker in exchange for providing coverage to safeguard the FCT High Court’s land property from any potential loss or damage throughout the entire year of 2019.

Justification and retrieval of certain funds were recommended.

Nonetheless, crucial papers such as the Insurance Policy illustrating the duration of coverage, confirmation from the insurance provider, contractual terms, and validation certificate from the National Insurance Commission (NAICOM) were not presented. The court’s internal control system was identified as the root cause of the anomalies as per the report, stating that these shortcomings could result in the government losing assets, funds, and payments being made for work or services that were never delivered. Responding to this, the court admitted to their lack of policy documents regarding the contract it had with the insurance company. The court firmly denied the accusations regarding non-performance payments made to contractors, asserting that it had followed proper procedures and protocols.

Concerning the matter of car acquisitions, the court emphasized that it had provided all required documentation for the transactions and had even allowed auditors to thoroughly inspect the vehicles. However, despite the court’s strong denial, the audit report has recommended the retrieval of certain funds and the need for justification regarding various miscellaneous transactions. As per the report, the Chief Registrar was requested to remit ₦1,053,916,000 to the treasury and submit proof of remittance to the Public Accounts Committee of the National Assembly. It stated that penalties for improper payments and payments made for unperformed tasks outlined in the Financial Regulations must be enforced.

Openness of the judiciary’s funds management raise concerns.

Likewise, Ms. Dodo was called upon to explain the amount of ₦322.74 million that had been disbursed without proper accompanying paperwork. The Chief Registrar should be summoned to provide an explanation to the Public Accounts Committee of the National Assembly concerning the sum of ₦60,416,609.49, representing payments made through improper hiring of insurance brokers. The audit report only scratches the surface when it comes to the larger concerns of transparency and accountability that Nigerians have been raising about the country’s Judiciary financial management. Over the years, the FCT High Court, along with other federal courts and judicial entities like the National Judicial Council (NJC), has consistently kept its annual budgets hidden away from public scrutiny.


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