By: Emmanuel Utibe
In the Great Independence Hall, traditionally, they are two events that are organized by an administration during their tenure: the freshers’ welcome which comes at the beginning of a session, and then the Hall week which comes at the end of the session. Aside from any other event that an administrator may decide to organize, these two are main events and are usually budgeted from the Hall’s account.
As noted by the Administrator General, during the first plenary for the house this semester after the strike, the current Excos have out of goodwill decided to go ahead with the freshers’ welcome. This is despite the shortfall of many freshers not paying for the freshers’ welcome as part of their hall dues. He brought a budget of N334, 450 to the house as the budget for the freshers’ welcome.
Now the next question that follows in mind though, since the freshers had not paid for the freshers’ welcome, is the question of where the budget of close to 350 thousand naira is gotten from. Well, the A.G in his next statement dealt with that question that comes to mind. He stated that all of the freshers’ welcome budget was going to be subject to sponsorship.
Like a gale through the forest, this seemed to rattle the logs in the house as a plenary that had hereto been largely uneventful, suddenly had honorable debating in typical legislative style.
Right after the AG’s presentation, an honorable who is member of the Audit Committee of the house noted to the A.G that, during his presentation despite what was said, he did not highlight how he was going to get the evidence of the transactions to the house for accountability and transparency purposes. Another honorable rose in opposition to this. He said to the house that, since the AG is going out of his way to ensure that the freshers’ welcome still goes on and also for the fact that the event was not going to require them to remove money from Hall’s account; the house should be less concerned about the receipts for transactions. He went further to say that the house is only tasked with ensuring that the money from Hall’s account is not misappropriated or misused. So, the house should only be out to see to the success of the event.
From this point, it became a back-and-forth. On the side, you had those who felt that the magnanimity of the AG and his Excos and they’re going out of their way to ensure the freshers’ welcome hold, should save them the stress of getting the receipts of every transaction that was done around the freshers’ welcome budget.
The other side dotted on the fact that despite the money not coming into Hall’s purse, the AG was not obtaining the money for the event being just Adejumo Uthman, a cool guy on campus but he was doing that in his office as a principal office of the hall, howbeit it’s number one citizen. Thus, he is still expected to be accountable for the money raised, as they may be shady underground dealings. The harping on the magnanimity of the AG is one they couldn’t’ risk. So for transparency’s sake and future bookkeeping and reference, all possible evidence for the transactions should be made available to the Assembly.
At the end by a majority vote, the House resolved that the AG should be required to present evidence for at least over 50% of the transactions done.
Now while this may have been settled in the house we are going to look briefly into the polity of sponsorships and as could be seen from this and also the issues that are raised around it.
A Structure of Convenience; a House Built On Sand
As seen, the structure that the AG uses for the sponsorship arrangements is peer-to-peer financing in contrast to a crowdfunding model where the budget for the event is prepared and presented before the House and then the said sponsors are required to pay whatsoever amount, they are helping with into Hall’s account. After which it can be withdrawn and used to account for the expenses as continued in the budget.
The peer-to-peer just have the sponsors dealing directly with the people responsible for whatsoever goods or service is to be paid for in the budget. This format would seem very good for convenience’s sake as it reduces the bureaucracy involved and also allows the possibility of lesser than expected amounts to be paid. On the contrary, though, large loopholes in the money trail are left potentially giving room for rats and other animals reputed in Nigeria for the magic act of making money suddenly disappear.
Like a house built on sand, this just needs enough rain for the house to sink into the ground. As it is not known who is paying who, what is being paid, and also the arrangements around the payment; we can’t tell if money is crossing over to the AG or a proxy and other things in that line. In essence, a word that captures issues that can arise from this is shady as everything is done in obscurity and away from the watchful eyes of those who should put it in check and could detect when the coin disappears from the magician’s fingers to his pocket. Transactions are also so under the table that it may not allow for above-board dealings and also doesn’t allow for easy tabulation and accounting in the event of future incidents around this very issue.
One thing to note is that the constitution, as would be seen below, does not outrightly specify how to go about these things and so there would be no superior argument based on authority here and the AG can be said to be wrong in any approach he is adopting by law. But then the last thing that can be said around this is that nobody for the need of convenience and ease of access build his house with the toilet in the middle of the sitting room.
Silence and the Many Ills it Birth
if the law is silent then any way becomes a path. If anything can be done, sound may be done but given human nature, bad would be done. A thorough end-to-end examination of the provisions of the Indy Hall constitution 2006 revealed there is not a single article dedicated to talking exclusively about the handling of hall finances. A search through the constitution shows some parts nonetheless that could be of interest in dealing with these issues:
∙ Article VI, Section I g, concerning the duties of the Administrator General, “Shall present the budget of the hall to the Hall assembly for approval”
∙ Article X, section V c, about the audit committee, “The committee shall publish an audit report at the end of every semester. This shall be displayed on the hall’s notice board” ∙ Article XII d, concerning the powers of the assembly, “The assembly shall see to it that all duties delegated to the Assembly and its committees, and Hall Executive Council are thoroughly executed.”
The fact that the constitution is archaic and needing of a redraft or at least amendment as has been highlighted severally by Indy Press tell why it doesn’t tell us outrightly if the AG is wrong in his assertation during the back and forth, that he could have the whole event subject to sponsorship and see no need to bring the freshers’ welcome budget before the house.
The constitution only requires him to bring the general budget before the house. At least that is what it clearly states, any other thing would require the looking glass of implications and the crystal ball of inferences. Another statement of note made by an honorable during the debates is the fact that the Assembly was only there to ensure Indy Hall money from the account is not misappropriated. Now that is a callous statement as the constitution doesn’t outrightly say this. In fact, the constitution doesn’t say anything along that line rather the idea that the house should be responsible for financial accountability is implied from the above on the power of the assembly, its need to hold itself, its committees, and the executive accountable.
It is also implied from the part of the audit committee of the house and their requirement to publish an audit report on the notice board every end of the semester because if there must be an audit report there must be bookkeeping and book cross-checking. An interview with a member of the audit committee revealed that the operations of the committee would require them to keep all financial dealings of the hall for various future purposes and a crossing of books with the AG and the Finance commissioner (the constitution requires the finance commissioner to keep all financial records. See Article VI, Section V, sub-section II).
So, the house’s final resolution to require the AG to bring evidence for the transactions carried out for the freshers’ welcome event is in line with this and legislative practice obtained in the larger society. Aside from the house audit committee requiring it for their books, it is also in the interest of the finance commissioner for it to be obtained so he can put it in his books too.
All the financial dealings go beyond the fact that the money had entered the Hall account to be called Hall’s money or not. If the money was obtained for a Hall event by a principal officer of the Hall using his office as a Hall executive, that sure enough is a financial dealing that concerns the Hall and thus should very much be accounted for.
Moving forward after doing a scan through the organization of sponsorship in the Hall, especially as relates to the issues that were noted from the first plenary meeting of the Hall’s Assembly, the need is seen to appreciate the magnanimity of goodwill from the Hall elected officers. But also marry this goodwill to the good grace of accountability, as transparency allows us to see our good selves more clearly, the absence of which would make our reflections no brighter than shadows in the dark in the eyes that watch.