Police storm ministry to arrest perm sec, others over alleged N1.9b fraud
THERE was a mild drama at the Federal Ministry of Health in Abuja Wednesday as a Special Police Squad from the Office of the Inspector General of Police stormed the ministry in search of the Permanent Secretary, Mr. Linus Awute.
Also on the list of the police were the Chief Executive Officer/National Coordinator of the National Centre for Disease Control (NCDC), Prof. Abdulsalam Nasidi; Director, Emergency Health Response, John Akintunde Kehinde; and Head of Nigerian Ebola Mission to Sierra Leone and Liberia, Dr. Joshua Obasanya.
The individuals, according to the Police were wanted in respect of an investigation in respect of a petition over alleged mismanagement of the N1.9 billion fund approved for Ebola intervention by the outgone government.
However, Prof. Nasidi told The Guardian on phone Wednesday that he was in Washington and was not aware that the police wanted him.
Reminded that the police claimed to have written him inviting him to present himself for questioning, he noted: “I have not received that correspondence. Maybe because I am in Washington.”
Awute and other officials wanted by the police could not be reached for comments.
The police team said it was investigating an allegations relating to fraud and mismanagement of the N1.9 billion Ebola fund.
The fifteen-page petition, which was also sent to President Muhammadu Buhari by one Dr. Davidson George, a volunteer to the Ebola mission to Liberia and Sierra Leone, alleged fraud in the management of the Fund.
The petition also claimed that the Ministry retired funds for activities, which were executed by the African Union.
Among the expenditure carried out according to the document was the procurement of isolation tents, which is to the tune of N900 million.
Also, an expenditure payment voucher dated 11/8/2014 being personal advance granted a Musa A.A, was initiated by Mr. Kehinde John Akintunde, director, environmental health, head of health emergency response and disaster for the release of N28, 220, 000 million for the decontamination of First Consultant hospital, Obalende, Lagos.
The document insisted that Lagos State Government and not the Federal Ministry of Health as claimed did the decontamination. It further claimed that the N28, 220, 000 million, which was released for that purpose, remained unaccounted for neither was it returned to the government coffer.
Nasidi according to the document withdrew N63, 581, 250 million claiming it was meant for pre-departure training of Nigerian volunteers who left the country on December 5th, 2014 for Liberia and Sierra Leone.
However, the document claimed that the African Union Commission paid for all the expenses.
The document also claimed that on 23/12/2014, N30, 769, 000 million was withdrawn from the Ebola account. The payment was made to Musa A Musa in Abuja and was claimed to be for a treatment research group on Ebola.
There was also an expenditure of N14, 415, 000 million on a meeting for 15 people.
A breakdown of the expense according to the document revealed that Prof. Nasidi whose office is in Asokoro and lives in Abuja collected N250, 000 as local running cost per kilometre. He also allegedly collected N216, 000 for airfare for a meeting, which held within Nigeria and N375, 000 as sitting allowance.
A mild drama played out when the Police Team stormed the ministry to effect arrest. Though they did not find Prof Nasidi and Mr. Linus, they made to arrest Mr. Kehinde, who they picked up from his office. Mr. Kehinde protested his arrest and insisted that the Permanent Secretary must authorize his arrest by the Police.
The Police, however, bundled him and took him to the ground floor preparatory to taking him away in their van.
However, some workers in the Ministry who had converged on the ground floor to discuss the development protested the action. They prevented the police from whisking him away as they followed them to the car park and also blocked their movement.
At a point the workers ordered the private security guard to lock the gate so that they would not be able to go out. They insisted that a Director could not be whisked away like that.