House of Representatives committee has launched an investigation into the N270 million which the Presidential Initiative on the North-East (PINE) claimed to have spent “on just clearing of grasses’’. This is coming sequel to the investigation into alleged diversion of funds and materials meant for Internally Displaced Persons (IDPS).
Following the mandate given to the Committee on IDPs and the North-East Initiatives by the house, the SGF, Mr. Babachir Lawal was invited to appear before it and explain how his office spent about N12 billion allocated for the IDPs’ challenges, however, he refused to honour the invitation. As a result, the investigation committee has said their job is being frustrated as the SGF has failed to clarify some issues on the allegation.
In addition, the house committee is also probing the purported allocation of N188.69 million for Nigerian refugees living in Minawao, Republic of Cameroon.
Unable to stomach his disappointment with the attitude of the SGF towards the committee, Chairman of the committee, Sani Zorro, said:
“The SGF who was slated to have appeared hasn’t showed up. He did not write to intimate us on why his office would not come to explain why issues of internally displaced persons have remained not encouraging, in spite of the billions of Naira claimed to have been spent.
“The PINE officials said he’s at the villa. But, as the secretary to the government under whose office the rehabilitation of the North-East was placed, we had expected him to come to throw light on the financial expenses made by his office. We also expected him to explain the implementation framework being used to spend money.
“We have been inundated by reports of diversion of materials and funds meant for the rehabilitation of the IDPs, and the North-East and the scandal had led to international embarrassment for the country.
“Given the issues of credibility and integrity raised against the agency in charge of the North-East Initiative (PiNE) which falls under the SGF office, we had expected him to respect the invitation.”
Nevertheless, Mr. Umar Gulani, the Executive Secretary in charge of the Presidential Initiative, testified in the presence of the committee members saying that N270 million was awarded as contract for the removal of 250 kilometres of “invasive plant species along river channels and simplified village irrigation scheme (phase II) in Komadugu Basin in Yobe’’.
Reacting, Sani Zorro expressed dissatisfaction with the explanation, saying:
“We are of the opinion that the expenditure of the magnitude you have made is not justified. It’s not acceptable that you would spend such a huge amount of money on the clearing of weeds while 2.5 million internally displaced victims of terror go hungry. They have no shelter and medical care.”
The committee, therefore, demanded further details from PINE, to be submitted to it without delay.