Omololu Ogunmade in Abuja
The Senate Ad hoc Committee on Mounting Humanitarian Crisis in the North-east yesterday uncovered fraud of N2.5billion allegedly perpetrated by the Presidential Initiative on the North-east (PINE) constituted by President Muhammadu Buhari to ensure the reconstruction and rehabilitation of North-east destroyed by Boko Haram.
The alleged discovery of the fraud came at time women in most of the Internally Displaced Persons camps (IDPs), go thorough a huge discomfort while searching for sanitary pads.
The alleged fraud was discovered at a public hearing organised by the committee in the National Assembly.
The alleged fraud bothered on execution of non-existing contracts, overinflated contracts and outright misappropriation of funds.
At the hearing, PINE couldn’t account for N2.5 billion it received for execution of intervention projects in the region.
While the Secretary of PINE, Umar Musa Gulani, claimed that the agency spent a whopping sum of N203million 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.”
Also, Gulani’s claim on the clearing of invasive plants species around river banks in the state at N253million by PINE was equally 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.
Even the claim by the Presidential Initiative to have spent several millions of naira for the renovation of about 18 schools completely wiped out by the Boko Hram insurgents in Yobe State alone, was also disputed by the commissioner and other stakeholders.
According to the commissioner, 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.
Disturbed by the revelations, the committee came very hard on PINE by directing its Secretary, Gulani, to forward to it within one week all documents including photographs of claimed executed contracts, wondering why a paltry sum of N2million was spent by the agency to feed the IDPs and donating 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 “.
Also speaking, Senator Ben Bruce, said when the committee visited some of 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 utilised.