NO ROOM FOR MARGIN OF ERROR PART I - Bashorun J.K. Randle - Paul Ukpabio's Blog


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Saturday, 24 April 2021


[Address delivered on 26th April 2021 as Guest of Honour

At the 19th Conferment of Fellowship

By the Institute of Chartered Accountants of Nigeria]

At the 50th Annual Conference of our Institute held in Abuja from 5th to 9th April, 2021 I was literally ambushed by several professional colleagues who were mostly from small firms of practising Chartered Accountants. They were accompanied by a posse of journalists much to my surprise. Even more startling was that they had swapped their white ICAN T-Shirts for a more attention-grabbing red version with a poignant message: “WE CANNOT BREATH”.

They wasted no time in alerting me that they were under threat of extinction. I assumed that this was largely on account of the raging COVID-19 pandemic and I attempted to reassure them that they are not the only victims of a virus which does not discriminate between small, medium and large firms, be they Chartered Accountants or whatever else. It was to no avail.

Before I could proceed on a different tack, they insisted on delivering their verdict on what they described as an overpowering sense of impending doom or imminent danger – to our noble profession and our nation.

Of course we all know that the nation has been caught within the whirlwind of insecurity – kidnapping, banditry, ritual murders, armed robbery, arson, ethnic tensions, insurgency etc.

That prompted me to suggest that we have to be focused and objective. What is paramount is to separate the particular from the general. Hence, my plea to them was that they should remain steadfast and faithful to the credo, ethics, and ethos of our profession regardless of the raging storms and the devastation as well as vagaries inflicted by Climate change.

They would not budge or shift ground. I had no choice but to remind them that our nation made wrong choices along the way. Hence, in spite of the huge potentials with which the Almighty has endowed us in terms of mineral resources (ranging from oil and gas to gold, iron ore, coal, tin, zinc etc.) we deliberately chose to squander it all. At Independence (1st October 1960), we were in the same economic/development bracket as Singapore and Malaysia. Now, they have outstripped us and left us far behind. The prospects of catching up with them glow dim with every passing day and fade completely at night.

It is self-evident that our major handicap is the Trust Deficit further compounded by ignorance, poverty, wickedness and incompetence. However, all these are no match for the putrid corruption we claim to be fighting.

The trust deficit is writ large – between those who govern and those who are being governed. It does not end there. Even more troubling is the chasm between Chartered Accountants and those we serve under the aegis of the public interest which is our sacred duty.

We cannot blame the public for placing Chartered Accountants on a pedestal based on our avowed commitment to:

“Truth, accuracy and integrity”

in accordance with the motto of the Institute of Chartered Accountants of Nigeria [ICAN].

The lawyers advertise themselves as the learned profession. We prefer to enter the arena as both learned and disciplined. To crown it all, we profess to be the noble profession.

However, Oscar Wilde (1854 to 1900) the playwright has warned:

“Self advertisement is the

worst form of recommendation.”

The public whom we serve are entitled to believe that we have all read:

“Great Expectation” - by Charles Dickens (1812 to 1870).

We cannot now turn round to issue a disclaimer that any expectation of greatness is unfounded or misplaced.

When the Institute of Chartered Accountants of Nigeria obtained its Charter on 1st September, 1965 from the then Minister of Education, late Chief Richard Akinjide S.A.N. it was implied that the Institute would be the custodian of enduring greatness – churning out men and women who have been deemed fit in character and learning. The order is important – character must be accorded precedence over learning.

According to the website of the Institute of Chartered Accountants of Nigeria [ICAN], we currently have fifty-two thousand Chartered Accountants – spread between the public and private sectors. Hence, the public is entitled to expect us to play a dominant role in driving financial discipline in the critical sectors of our nation’s economy and financial architecture especially the “commanding heights.”

Alas, at our last Annual Conference, it was the Chairman of the Federal Inland Revenue Service [FIRS] Alhaji Muhammad Mamman Nami who in his contribution to the discussions on “TAXATION IN A DIGITAL WORLD: PROSPECTS AND CHALLENGES” dropped a bombshell:

“99 per cent of our nation’s revenue is being spent on debt service and payment of salaries and allowances.”

Separately, the alarm raised by the newly appointed Dr. Orji Ogbonnaya, Executive-Secretary of Nigeria Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative [NEITI] has gone viral:

Front page headline: “Sunday Independent” newspaper April 18, 2021.

“We Don’t Know Exact Quantity Of Crude Oil Nigeria Produces – NEITI Boss”.

Various versions of the story ran thus: “The Executive Secretary of the Nigeria Extractive Industries (NEITI), Ogbonnaya Orji, has stated that the exact quantity of crude oil produced in the country is unknown. He said this during a courtesy visit to Mansur Liman, Director-General of the Federal Radio Corporation of Nigeria (FRCN).

According to Orji, the lack of information has persisted due to the absence of meters at well-heads and the inability to monitor deep offshore fields.

“We do not have the capacity to go deep off shores to know how much we are producing. As we speak, it is very difficult for any Nigerian to ascertain how much we are actually producing,” he said.

He added: “This is one of the challenges that NEITI is dealing with because if you do not know how much you are producing, how would you know how much you are expected to earn ?

The companies that go deep off shore that are involved in off-shore exploration, none of them are indigenous Nigerian companies and they cannot really protect the interest of the country as much as Nigerians can.

But we must concede to those companies, they are doing a great job here because without them there will be no oil industry.”

The NEITI boss said the agency has consistently recommended that meters be placed on oil well-heads to measure the volume of crude oil produced in the country, in all its oil and gas audit reports.

According to him, efforts to reform the oil sector have not been successful because those who benefit from the outdated law governing the sector are hindering the passage of the petroleum industry bill (PIB).

Orji said: “The only law that governs the oil and gas industry in Nigeria currently is the Petroleum Act of 1958.

If you use this law in computations of taxes and royalties based on a very old rate, Nigeria loses a lot of revenue.”

He noted that the country’s failure to update its laws in the sector means when prices go up, the country is unable to derive maximum benefit from the situation.

The same NEITI cried out on May 14, 2017, over the same accursed issue, “How Nigeria lost N2 trillion to poor metering of oil wells in two years.”

On CNN, Alhaji Babatunde Raji Fashola S.A.N. the Minister of Works (and former Governor of Lagos State) provided an illuminating insight regarding our plight.

“The road contract in question was actually awarded for N20 billion in 2011 for a sixty kilometres road. Mobilisation was paid but the distance was changed from 60 kilometres to twenty kilometres. Here we are ten years later; we have to restore the distance to sixty kilometres. Of course to get the contractors back to site, we have to renegotiate. The variations must necessarily reflect the current cost of bitumen, granite, coal tar, rollers, machines, equipment, and cost of labour as well as the exchange rate of the naira to the dollar. Otherwise, it will be another abandoned project like so many others that litter our nation.”

Clearly, there is no room for margin of error.

While wrestling with the challenge of Great Expectations, we cannot ignore the severe jolt delivered on CNN by Brigadier-General Buba Marwa (Rtd), former Military Governor of Lagos State regarding the toxic environment which has engulfed our entire nation (including Chartered Accountants).

The source was the front page of “Nigerian Tribune” newspaper of 19th January, 2021:

Front page headline: “15 MILLION NIGERIANS ON DRUGS – MARWA”

As he takes over at NDLEA

“Newly-appointed Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of the National Drug Law Enforcement Agency (NDLEA), General Mohammed Buba Marwa (retd), on Monday, condemned the illicit use of drugs by Nigerians which has eaten deep into the nation’s social fabric with over 15 million Nigerians of all ages hooked on drugs.

General Marwa said this when he assumed duty at the headquarters of the organisation in Abuja.

In his remarks during a meeting with the management team of the agency, he, however, warned drug barons and traffickers to back out of the illicit trade or be ready for hard times.

“I would like to warn those who engage in the trade of importation, export, cultivation, processing, manufacture, trafficking, sale and consumption of illicit substances to stop forthwith or be prepared to contend with the NDLEA. The NDLEA will safeguard the nation and our youths from drug menace. That is a task that must be done,” he said.

“It is the task of NDLEA to stop drug abuse in Nigeria. Together, by the grace of God, we will resuscitate and reposition NDLEA to full active life, to be effective, respected and feared by the concerned criminals. Nigeria is the only country we have; we cannot fold our arms. We can, will, and must eliminate the drug scourge”.

He said: “NDLEA will be overhauled and expanded in line with the Presidential Committee for the Elimination of Drug Abuse (PACEDA) recommendations, existing financial constraints, and the authorisation of the appropriate superior authorities.

“We will put efforts in drug demand reduction as contained in NDLEA Act. We will develop a strategy of work to meet our objectives, following the National Drug Control Masterplan 2021 – 2025 to be released soon, as our roadmap”, he added.

He assured the staff of the agency that their welfare will be given priority, while demanding discipline and dedication to duty from them.

“I want to assure you all that your welfare will be given utmost attention. The outstanding issues of stagnation in rank, training and postings and due emoluments will be addressed as a priority. Also, operational and logistical inadequacies in the service will be looked into. Discipline must remain number one; it is the bedrock of an organisation such as ours,” he added.

- Bashorun J.K. Randle is a former President of the Institute of the Chartered Accountants of Nigeria (ICAN) and former Chairman of KPMG Nigeria and Africa Region. He is currently the Chairman, J.K. Randle Professional Services

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