Senate queries North East rehabilitation agency over suspected N2.5b fraud
The Senate has uncovered a N2.5 billion suspected fraud in the activities of the Presidential Initiative on the North East (PINE), which is mandated to reconstruct and rehabilitate communities destroyed by Boko Haram insurgency.
The discovery came at a time when women in most of the camps lack basic commodities like sanitary pads.
The suspected fraud was revealed during a public hearing yesterday in Abuja by the Senate Ad-Hoc Committee on Mounting Humanitarian Crisis in the North East with stakeholders from states in the North East and the Federal Government agencies involved in developing the area.
The fraud involves the award and execution of non-existing contracts, over-inflated contracts and misappropriation of funds.
Specifically, the Presidential Initiative on the North East could not account for the N2.5 billion it received for the execution of intervention projects in the area while being interrogated by the committee.
While the Secretary of PINE, Umar Musa Gulani claimed that the agency spent N203 million to clear grass in Yobe State, stakeholders from the state led by the Commissioner for Information, Alhaji Mohammed Lamin, disputed his claim.
Lamin said, “no taipa grass was cleared in the state by any Federal Government agency.”
Also, Gulani’s claim of spending N253 million to clear weeds around river banks in the state was also faulted by the commissioner and others in addition to the N422.5 million he claimed was spent on the provision of temporary shelter (tents) for displaced persons in the state.
Even the claim by the agency that millions of naira were spent to renovate about 18 schools destroyed by the insurgents in Yobe State was also disputed by the commissioner and others.
According to the commissioner, only three schools have been renovated in the state.
Worried about the discovery, the committee members ordered Gulani to forward documents, including photographs of executed projects within one week.
They also demanded explanation on why only N2 million was spent by the agency on feeding the displaced persons while a donation of N50 million was made to an NGO as stated in their statement of account.