Editorial

Questionable deals over North East funds

 

In the last couple of weeks there have been generous reports of sleaze emanating from the various government interventions in the North East region of the country. As a result of different revelations implicating Vice President Yemi Osinbajo coming out of the House of Representatives, the Senate appears to think there is something smelly there going by statements credited to some of its members. As a result, the Senate may set up an ad-hoc committee of its own to probe the alleged mismanagement of N33bn currently rocking the Presidential Intervention Programme for the North-East. Speaking on the issue, Vice-Chairman, Senate Committee on Media and Public Affairs, Ben Murray-Bruce, was quoted in media reports over the weekend that the chamber will commence the probe as soon as the House of Representatives ad-hoc committee concluded its own investigation.
Presently, the House of Representatives ad-hoc committee probing the alleged swindle, had said Vice President Yemi Osinbajo, in his capacity as the chairman of the programme and the Director-General of the National Emergency Management Agency, Mustapha Maihaja have questions to answer over the funds. On the other hand,  NEMA stated that the probe by the House into the N5.8bn Presidential intervention fund which was approved by the Vice President for the North-East, was shocking and should not be directed at NEMA alone.
The House panel through its Chairman Ali Isa, had told journalists last week that Osinbajo, as chairman of the programme, approved the release of the funds; while the NEMA DG supervised how the funds were expended. The Reps panel also specifically indicted Osinbajo for allegedly approving N5.8bn North-East Intervention Fund, which it claimed was illegal.
Osinbajo had dismissed the allegation, stating that the government was obliged to make an emergency response to the humanitarian crisis in the geopolitical zone.
Murray-Bruce said, “It is very likely that the Senate will institute a probe into the issue but you will get the details on Tuesday. We will allow the Reps committee to finish its probe before we start our own.
The allegations against those in charge of the programme are very serious and we will not allow it to go like that. We will take the decision on Tuesday.”
Although NEMA officials have disputed some of the allegations as improper conduct saying that their role at the agency is usually just the distribution of materials and probably funds to enable the physical distribution. Sources claim that procurement details normally begin with the Ministry of Budget and National Planning, thus could not have been in charge of procurement.
Nevertheless, the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP has urged Osinbajo to seek forgiveness over the alleged intervention fund scandal even as it asked the VP to make refund to the government. National Publicity Secretary of PDP, Kola Ologbondiyan, in a statement, said the alleged indictment of Osinbajo in the matter by the House of Representatives was sad, given the VP’s perceived transparent and pious posture.
He said, “The Peoples Democratic Party says Vice President Yemi Osinbajo, as a preacher, should search his soul, seek forgiveness and make restitution for entangling himself in corruption and sharp practices instead of his lame effort at concealment in the N5.8bn North-East Intervention Fund scandal. It is heartrending that Osinbajo, despite his sanctimonious posturing, is being fingered in the frittering of the N5.8bn meant for the purchase of food and the general welfare of the suffering Internally Displaced Persons in the North-East,” the statement concluded.
While we await the final outcome of the probe by the House and probably the senate, we hope that these probes will get to the bottom of the real issues. This should not just be the usual mudslinging of politicians. It must have substance and whoever is found wanting must be prosecuted. We believe that the National Assembly has many tools it can use to put public officials aright. Therefore must not stop at just mere indictment, if indeed the executors of this programme ran foul of the law. The North East has suffered a lot. Pilfering with their relief funding should not be one of them. Earlier, it was former secretary to the Government of the Federation who was sacked over issues relating to the North East, and now this.  Enough!

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