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Wednesday, 7 October 2015

The Revenue Mobilization Allocation and Fiscal Commission is created by virtue of the constitutional provisions in the part one of the 3rd schedule.
Amongst its fundamental powers and functions are; to monitor the accruals to the disbursement of revenue from the Federation Account; review from time to time, the Revenue Allocation formulae and principles in operation to ensure conformity with changing realities provided that any revenue formula which has been accepted by an Act of the national assembly shall remain in force for a period of not less than five years from the date of commencement of the Act. The Commission also has the power to advise the Federal and State Governments on Fiscal efficiency and methods by which their revenue can be increased; and significantly, to determine the remuneration appropriate for political office holders, including the President, Vice President, Governor, Deputy Governor, Ministers, Commissioners, Special Advisers, Legislators and the holders of the offices mentioned in section 84 and 124 of this constitution. In section 84(1), the offices mentioned included those in judicial officers' cadre whilst in section 124 mention was made of the offices of Governors, Deputy Governors, Auditor General, the State Independent Electoral Commission and The State Judicial Service Commission.
From the above constitutional provisions, it is crystal clear that the commission is pivotal to the smooth democratization process of Nigeria particularly  because of the  obvious fact that if the enabling environment is provided for the agency to work effectively, all the leakages from the fiscal assets of corporate  Nigeria that bleed away into private pockets would be curtailed  and effectively checked. 
The question set out to be tackled in this piece is why the commission is not adequately funded and why the relevant statutes enabling its existence not amended to confer enforcement rather than advisory roles on it. Again why is the process of the amendments of the 1999 constitution still in abeyance and why has the Supreme Court of Nigeria not expedited action on the hearing of the suit instituted by the office of President challenging the passage and coming into effects of the just concluded amendments done by the defunct National Assembly?  The seventh session of the National Assembly had recommended funding autonomy for the RMAFC just as the last National political conference also recommended same and the Justice Modibbo Belgore led committee on constitutional reforms also recommended that the funding of the revenue commission be drawn from the first line statutory charge.
There is no gainsaying the fact that in terms of political will and the leadership vision, the hierarchy of the Revenue mobilization allocation and fiscal commission are clearly ready and willing to do the needful to ensure the efficient enforcement of those strategies that could check any leakages and improve the revenue generating profile of Nigeria.
The commission’s chairman is Engineer Elias Mbam who was once a minister of state for Finance who according to several testimonies by respected Stakeholders recognised his sterling qualities as a gentleman  of proven integrity and a Statesman.
Mrs. Ifueko Omoigui Okauru, a one time Executive Chairman of Federal in-land Revenue Service and Chairman Joint Tax Board had on February 15th 2011 during the management retreat for members and management of the Revenue Commission which held in Uyo, Akwa Ibom State described Engineer Elias Mbam in the following superlative terms: “ let me also note that the chairman of the commission Engineer Elias Mbam is well known as a committed and diligent person who has acquitted himself impressively in all national assignments and I have no doubt that his appointment will positively impact the ability of the commission to discharge it’s mandates”.
This Testament was immediately given a life of its own  when an ad-hoc committee set up by the chairman went to work and expertly identified the challenges facing the agency even as pragmatic steps and measure were put in place to actualize the stated solution to each and every fundamental institutional challenges besetting the Revenue Mobilization Allocation and Fiscal Commission.
By way of Emphasis the committee found  out as far back as year 2011 that there are cases of variation in the provision of the 1999 constitution and the enabling laws of the commission enshrined in CAP R7 laws of the federation of Nigeria of the year 2004. 
This committee further proceeded to proffer panacea that the enabling Acts of the commission should be comprehensively reviewed to harmonize with the provision of the 1999 constitution.
The committee which was the brain child of Elias Mbam led hierarchy suggested the opportunity provided by the review exercise should be used to correct all inadequacies in the legal framework including special funding of the commission just as it asked that a draft bill reflecting the review should be presented to the national assembly.
This was done but as so well known, the different  sessions of the national assembly move in a snail -speed  that it has become increasingly difficult for this aspiration of the management of the commission to be achieved in good  time. 
Conversely, the committee also found out that certain provisions of the 1999 constitution central to the functions  of the commission need judicial interpretation and gave example with that which states that “all  revenues” and also the extent of monitoring of the payments into the federation account .
The Human Rights writers Association of Nigeria (HURIWA) has extensively examined the operational modalities of the revenue commission  and we  can state without any fear of contradiction that given the salient constitutional roles of the commission the current funding profile must be consolidated.
To demonstrate how seriously committed to the enthronement of transparency and accountability this commission under the leadership of Elias Mbam is, one just have to look at the summary of issues, recommendations and action plan submitted to the commission by the ad-hoc committee in 2011 which graphically painted grim picture of the issue of lack of transparency and accountability in crude oil sub sector of the economy. These facts have now come to the front burners of national debate. 
 In other words, the negative impact of the JVCC, petroleum subsidy, non-remittance to the federation account, Exchange rate differentials, external loans deductions, first line charges amongst others  are enormous,  they stressed.  
To put it mildly this is superfluous. How can the constitution empower the empanelling of such a commission but only dress it up with advisory roles? This lacuna must be effectively reviewed and amended so the commission can be offered the constitutional authority to enforce compliance similar to what such important bodies as bureau for public procurement does even when it is not encompassed or contained in the Supreme body of law guiding Nigeria -  the Nigeria constitution.
The committee pointed out that section 162 of the constitution provides the establishment of the federation account into which “all revenue” shall be paid and the agency indicated intention to initiate a legal process to seek for interpretation of the section to determined the legality or otherwise of the government agencies withholding remittance or portions of their collections to the federation Account.
However, the revenue commission drew the attention of the federal government to this practice of withholding funds due to the federation account. From all indications, since this matter was tabled to the federal government in 2011 till the emergence of the current federal government no action was taken.
This is a clear indication that the engineer Elias Mbam led RMAFC were amongst those who championed the current enforcement by the President Muhammadu Buhari’s Government of the Treasury Single Account which took off with effect from September 30th 2015.
The current management team headed by engineer Elias Mbam is credited with organizing national dialogues on the best Revenue Allocation formula.
The Nigeria observer newspaper praised Engineer Mbam thus;
“There is no Nigerian who is not excited or captivated by Mr. Mbam’s delightful gesture to the nation – a national debate on revenue allocation formula that has epistemological phenomena of a child embroiling in festivity". 
"Many Nigerians thought the day would never come as many damages have been done and incurred by Nigeria for the late awakening to this reality of fiscal federalism formula review. Any country that is a federation must have a formula for sharing nationally derived funds, (coded national cake in Nigeria) amongst the tiers of government that make up the federation. The formulae are similar in many forms but environmental circumstances demand that different countries formula’ takes note of their environments hence the difference in the formula’s characteristics. Therefore the Nigeria’s formula would be different from that of the USA, Canada, or Ethiopia.”

“Mr. Mbam the Chairman of Revenue Mobilization Allocation and Fiscal Commission (RMAFC) has thrust the whole country into a pandemonium, by demanding a national dialogue in respect of revenue sharing formula. The paradox could be one of high hopes with the resultant consequences of consolidated unity for Nigeria or a hoax that could result in discord, despair and which could finally put the nail on the coffin to seal the faith of Nigeria in disarray and possibly split. His call for review and national discourse in the matter has a salutary effect even though we have been in such a call before only to be covertly deceived.”

There are indeed cogent and verifiable reasons why RMAFC should be granted autonomy if truly we mean to wage relentless war against corruption and financial leakages in government agencies that generate revenues for Nigeria.

*Emmanuel Onwubiko is Head of Human Rights Writers Association of Nigeria and blogs;,

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