The move by the House of Representatives to get the Chartered Institute of Forensics and Certified Fraud Examiners of Nigeria (CIFCFEN) established in the country has set the Institute of Chartered Accountants of Nigeria (ICAN) against the Association of National Accountants of Nigeria (ANAN) in a renewed rivalry that may again linger for a while.
There are two accounting associations in Nigeria- the ICAN and ANAN while
the Chartered Institute of Taxation of Nigeria (CITN) is established to regulate tax practice in the country.
ICAN was at loggerheads with the other two bodies at various times in the past.
It was stoutly opposed to the establishment of ANAN after it was formed in 1979 until President Ibrahim Babangida signed the ANAN Decree 76 into law on August 25, 1993 to break its monopoly on accountancy in the country.
The dispute with the CITN, on the other hand, was over which of them had the legal right to regulate tax practice in the country and had ran all through the courts in the country without being resolved until the recent intervention of the Federal Internal Revenue Service (FIRS).
The FIRS move to enthrone peace among the three bodies had involved a Memoranda of Understanding (MoU) signed by all three at the FIRS Hqtrs in Abuja on May 31, 2021.
The MoU, which goes into implementation from August 1, this year, provided for the following practice direction for the three bodies:
I. Membership of CITN is mandatory for anyone to practice taxation in Nigeria;
II. Only ICAN and ANAN members with CITN membership and practicing licence can practice taxation in Nigeria and consequently be eligible to file tax returns at FIRS for a fee on behalf of willing clients;
III. CITN will grant qualified ICAN and ANAN members direct membership of CITN, without examinations to enable them practice taxation;
IV. CITN, ICAN and ANAN are reciprocally entitled to 50% waiver on their annual subscriptions and fee for practicing licence subject to obtaining a letter of good standing from one’s parent Institute;
V. The duration of the agreement is 5 years subject to renewal;
VI. All pending court cases would be withdrawn by the parties involved and notices of discontinuance filed in court within 60 days from the date of execution of the MoU;
VII. A party includes its members, and any infraction of the provisions of the MoU will cause the party to lose its benefits.
VIII. Each Institute undertakes to use its internal disciplinary process to punish any recalcitrant member who deviates from the provisions of the MoU, and other legal measures could be taken to beat the recalcitrant member into line.
IX. ICAN and ANAN members are entitled to use their stamp-and-seal on audited financial statements while members of CITN are entitled to use their stamp-and-seal for tax computations.
This notwithstanding, however, ANAN and ICAN were penultimate week at each other’s throat again at the CIFCFEN Bill hearing in Abuja
Titled: “A Bill for an Act to Establish the Chartered Institute of Forensics and Certified Fraud Examiners of Nigeria to Provide for the Regulation and Control of Its Membership and Promote the Practice of Forensics and Fraud Examiners in Nigeria and For Related Matters 2021,” ICAN and ANAN had differed on the proposal in their presentations, with ICAN stoutly opposed to it and ANAN supporting.
Led by its Second Vice Chairman, Mr. Innocent Okwuosa, ICAN claimed that there was a similar bill by the Chartered Institute of Forensics and Investigative Professionals of Nigeria passed by the eighth Assembly but President Muhammadu Buhari declined to give his assent, pointing out that ICAN already has a training faculty on forensics.
According to him, everything being discussed in the bill was already covered in the ICAN training programme, arguing that forensic was not a primary profession that can stand alone as specialist areas as that were globally built on the foundation of primary professions.
Okwuosa feared that if the proposed bill was passed, it would criminalise those already practicing forensics and fraud examination, including members of ICAN and ANAN.
But ANAN, which fully endorsed the bill, said the establishment of the institute would benefit the country to achieve good governance.
Earlier, the Chairman of the House Committee on Anti-Corruption and Commerce, Hon. Nicholas Garba, said CIFCFEN was a professional association that has been in existence for a while and only requires legal backing.
In a related development, ICAN has accused the Federal Government of engaging retrogressive policies to weaken the relevance of accounting in public governance in Nigeria.
Mrs. Comfort Eyitayo, the new President of ICAN, who made the remark in Lagos during her acceptance speech, said, “We are challenged not only by the harsh economic circumstances of our nation, but also by pieces of regulations designed to diminish the importance of professionalism in public governance.
“The office of the Head of Service of the Federation on April 12, 2021 issued a circular to all Ministries, Departments and Agencies stopping the use of professional qualifications as entry qualifications into the civil/public service of the federation with immediate effect.
“The circular affirmed that professional qualifications will only be an added advantage in the interim, if a civil servant is to be promoted from salary grade level 13 to 14.”
The move, she said, would restrict the opportunity of some sections of the country to work in government.
In her words: “Children of the poor who could not obtain formal education due to financial challenges but decided, out of determination, to pursue professional qualifications through private studies are barred from working in government.
“To accept a post-primary qualification for entry into the civil/public service and disparage professional qualifications as not an acceptable qualification for the same purpose, is to hold in contempt the Acts of parliament which set up the various professional bodies. In our view, this is not healthy for national development.”