A N2.5billion fraud allegedly perpetrated by the Presidential Initiative on the North-East (PINE) has been uncovered by the Senate. PINE was instituted by President Muhammadu Buhari to ensure that the north-eastern part of the country destroyed by Boko Haram was reconstructed and rehabilitated.
The alleged fraud was unearthed on Tuesday, December 6, by the Senate ad-hoc committee, during a public hearing on its probe into the alleged diversion and mismanagement of funds for the humanitarian crisis in the region.
The public hearing was held at the National Assembly complex, Abuja and had in attendance representatives from North-East states as well as some officials of Federal Government agencies.
Sequel to the investigations made by the senators, PINE could not give account of the N2.5 billion it received for execution of intervention projects in the region.
According to Daily Independent, while the secretary of PINE, Umar Musa Gulani, claimed that the agency spent a whopping sum of N203 million to clear taipa grass in Yobe state, stakeholders from the state led by the state’s commissioner for information, Alhaji Mohammed Lamin, disputed his claim, saying “no taipa grass was cleared in the state by any federal government agency”.
Another claim by Gulani on the clearing of invasive plants species around river banks in the state at N253million by PINE was also countered by the commissioner and other stakeholders from the state in addition to the N422.5million he claimed was spent on provision of temporary shelter (tents) to small families in the state.
Dismissed also, was the claim by the presidential initiative that it had spent millions of naira on the renovation of about 18 schools completely wiped out by the Boko Haram insurgents in Yobe.
The commissioner revealed that only three schools have been renovated in the state by agencies outside the state, to which the State Universal Basic Education (SUBEB) have been directed by the governor to identify.
The discoveries did not go down well with the lawmakers who directed Gulani to forward to them all documents, including photographs of claimed executed contracts, within one week.
The senators questioned why a whooping sum of N2million was spent by the agency to feed the IDPs and faulted the donation of N50million to a non-governmental organisation as clearly stated in their statement of account.
A member of the committee, Senator Theodore Orji said:
“The affected states said they were not aware of all the contracts executed by PINE; you people just decided to make money and that is why you decided to donate N50million for a conference organised by an NGO.”
In addition,Senator Ben Bruce while speaking said when the committee visited some of the IDP camps, many women cried out for provision of sanitary pads which he said could have been well taken care of if the N2.5billion given to PINE out of the budgeted N5billion, was well managed.