By Folasade Folarin
Mr Bayo Onanuga, Managing Director, News Agency of Nigeria (NAN), has commended the Accountant General of the Federation, Mr Ahmed Idris, for the implementation of the Integrated Personnel and Payroll Information System (IPPIS).
He gave the commendation on Wednesday in Abuja when he led NAN management to a courtesy call on the accountant general in Abuja.
Onanuga said that he was impressed by the implementation of the system which is aimed at putting all Federal Government workers on the same payroll.
“I think it is a wonderful thing that your office is doing to have the data of everybody working for the government of Nigeria and I hope you will be able to expand the scope so that everybody can be captured.
He said the visit was aimed at intimating the accountant general on some of the challenges of the agency, adding that it had come a long way at almost 40 years.
He said that the Agency, being the largest in Africa, could not compete with other news agencies in the world because of paucity of funds.
He said that the NAN had correspondents all over the country and that it was becoming increasingly difficult to fund its activities since the subvention from the Federal Government had reduced drastically.
Onanuga also said that the subscribers, who got most of their reports from NAN do not pay their dues because many of them are also distressed.
“As the giant of Africa, we should be competing with the Reuters of this world; we should be competing with the AFPs of this world; but we are unable to do so because we do not have the wherewithal and we are the largest news agency in Africa.
“We are going through all kinds of problems and I really hope that the government of Nigeria will really come to our aid.
The Federal Government, he said, should continue to maintain NAN which provided more than 70 per cent of media content.
The government was subsidising the entire Nigerian press through the services provided by the Agency.
“Our clientele are distressed so it will also affect the function of NAN and NAN will also be distressed, and that is why we find it difficult to meet our obligations, even to our staff.
“We cannot pay transport allowances to our staff, we cannot pay some of their statutory claims, so these are some of the serious challenges that we are facing.’’
He said that upon assumption of office, he had to cut a lot of expenses and reduced personal claims in order to cope with the huge expenditure, but the Agency was still indebted to some other government’s agencies for services rendered.
He, however, urged the accountant general to help the agency get its strength back by increasing its subvention and releasing it when due.
Responding, Idris said that the functions of his office transcend all the three tiers of government and also cover states and local governments.
He said that the office had introduced all the accounting standards it was presently operating to ensure best practices in line with global demand.
He advised the Agency to make its request for more funding through its mother agency, the Ministry of Information.
He said the accountant general’s office would ensure that all approved releases for the agency will be cash-backed promptly to ensure smooth delivery of services.
“Some of the issues you raised namely funding, I will advise firmly that you take it up right from the level of your core mother ministry in budgeting because it starts from there.
“You must make them understand that yes, there are array of needs for you to do and discharge the functions you are expected to discharge.
“Above that, you also need to defend all that you state in your budget before the National Assembly, all these come together to result into what you get annually in appropriation.
“We assure you that we will keep servicing you, making releases promptly, ensuring that whatever releases that are made are cash backed for the benefit of your organisation.’’
Idris said that all government’s agencies were should efficiently manage the meagre resources available to them by government.
He said the nation was in an era of scarcity of resources and that inflows were dwindling and were “becoming thinner, yet demands were increasing’’.
“On the other hand, government is inundated with the demand to provide capital development and all these are putting pressure on government, yet the revenues are shrinking.
“The only call is for all of us to manage the government resources very efficiently and effectively in a manner that value is taken by every amount spent.’’
Idris pointed out that getting out of recession was not the job of economists alone but for all Nigerians, including the media.
He appealed to the media to play its role by not only educating, informing and entertaining Nigerians, but to also enlighten the nation to embrace the culture of patriotism.
“We are saying that you should do more to educate Nigerians that government fighting corruption is the best thing that will happen, sometimes it is even better to fight corruption than to fight Boko Haram.
“Boko Haram will dissipate, but the effects of corruption will stay up to our children yet unborn.’’
Idris, however commended the media for its resilience in carrying out its duties in spite of the tight conditions available to it. (NAN)