The House of Representatives on Thursday said it will investigate alleged misappropriation of N100 billion at the North East Development Commission (NEDC).
This followed the adoption of a motion by Minority Leader, Ndudi Elumelu who alleged that N100bn disbursed to the commission had vanished in less than a year with no appreciable impact on displaced persons or infrastructural development, which the commission executed in the North East.
Responding to the allegations during a telephone interview with DailyTrust on Thursday evening, the NEDC MD Alkali said the commission did not receive up to N100 billion as alleged.
“Nobody gave us up to N100 billion; I really don’t know how they got that figure,” Alkali said.
Elumelu said it was alleged that the Minister of Humanitarian Affairs and Disaster Management and Social Development, Sadiya Umar Farouk, in conjunction with the managing director of the NEDC withdrew N5 billion to purchase military vehicles without approval by the NEDC board and disregard to the country’s procurement laws.
“There are allegations of how the managing director and his close associates diverted funds meant for the commission to purchase choice properties in highbrow neighbourhoods of Abuja, Kaduna and Maiduguri to the detriment of the suffering refugees and infrastructural development,” Elumelu said.
He noted that there had been massive displacement of Nigerians in the North East as a result of the activities of Boko Haram insurgents where houses, schools, mosques, churches, farmlands and businesses were destroyed rendering people homeless and jobless.
“The Northeast Development Commission Bill was signed into law in October 2017 by President Buhari to replace other initiatives such as the Presidential Initiative on Northeast and the Victims Support Fund and the board of management inaugurated in May 2019.
“The commission was established with a mission of coordinating funds accruing from the federation account and donor agencies for the purposes of rehabilitating and resettling of victims of insurgency, reconstruction of homes, infrastructural development and tackling of illiteracy in the northeastern part of the country,” he said.
On the allegation that they spent N5 billion in the procurement of vehicles for the military without approval by the NEDC board, Alkali said the records of what transpired are there.
“We didn’t spend N5 billion on vehicles for the military and most importantly, I want to assure you that we followed due process in the procurement; the Board of NEDC was fully aware. We are mindful of our mandate and we are doing our best to support the people,” he said.
Alkali said he would be willing to present himself at the National Assembly to defend activities of the NEDC whenever he receives invitation from the legislators.
Also speaking, the spokesman for the NEDC, Abba Musa, said the procurement of vehicles for the security operatives was the outcome of a meeting of relevant stakeholders in Maiduguri.
“There was a security summit in Maiduguri last year where part of the recommendations made in the communiqué was that the NEDC should support security operatives with logistics and that was what we did and the money spent was not up to N5 billion.
“The money was not up to N5 billion but it was above the approval limit of the commission. We therefore referred it to the ministerial tender’s board, which in turn sought advice from the Bureau for Public Procurement.
“The bureau responded appropriately and the vehicles were purchased. I want to assure you that NEDC did not receive up to N100 billion. Our take-off grant was N10 billion and N45 billion was budgeted for the commission in 2019 out of which N25 billion was released.
“And for the 2020 budget, you all know what is going on…So, I wonder how they came about N100 billion,” Musa said.
When contacted, the Deputy Director Information and spokeswoman of the Ministry of Humanitarian Affairs, Disaster Management and Social Development, Mrs Rhoda Ishaku Iliya, said they were not aware of the allegation by the House of Representatives members.
Mr Ndudi Elumleu lashed again, saying that the NEDC which was set up to ameliorate the sufferings of the people was now allegedly enmeshed in serious corrupt practices by the management.
“The corrupt practices include high handedness by the Managing Director, Mohammed Goni Alkali, over inflation of contracts, awards of non-existent contracts, massive contract splitting and flagrant disregard for the procurement laws in the award of contracts.
“These consistent abuse of procurement laws if not put to check may defeat the purpose for the establishment of the commission, hence the need for an urgent investigation,” Elumelu stated.
The House therefore mandates its Committees on Finance, Procurement and NEDC to exhaustively investigate the allegations and report back in eight weeks.