Reps commences investigations of alleged diversion of funds in Ministry of Women Affairs

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By Joy Odor

The House of Representatives has commenced investigations of alleged reported diversion of funds in the Ministry of Women Affairs and Social Development meant for contractor’s payments, following a petition from contractors.

Chairperson of the Committee, Kafilat Ogbara at the investigation informed that the Committee is probing the non-payment of N1.5 billion to contractors despite, fund release.

He clarified that the hearing aimed to uncover the truth, not witch-hunt, while questioning the Minister, Uju Kennedy-Ohaneye, aabout unrelated expenditures, including N45 million for a New Year party, N20 million for sanitary pads, and N1.5 million for vehicle fuelling.

There was a mild drama during the investigative hearing when the Minister was asked to give account of how monies meant for contractors, paid by the Accountant General office were expended by the Ministry.

In her account, the Minister said though, 30 percent of the total sum meant for contractors where paid to her Ministry but, can not give account of how it was spent because the first Lady, Oluremi Tinubu had advised her to mind her business.

Committee members therefore, questioned the rationale behind her claim of not been aware of money that was paid to her Ministry.

The Minister stated that, “because the total sum was not released to the Ministry, is part of seasons, why the contractors are been owed.

“If not that the money of this year has been delayed, I’m sure we wouldn’t be here today. Because we could have paid out some of these liabilities. But since this year, no project money has been released to any Ministry. And that was a constraint,” she said.

A member of the Committee, Marie Nenemete Ebikake, however questioned the Minister on the African First Lady Peace Mission project of about N500 million, asking the Minster to tell the Committee how the money was utilized, where the project was located and  those involved.

“The last time we were here, was on Thursday, we raised an issue of African First Lady Peace Mission projects. Unfortunately, we didn’t get any concrete  answer to the issue.

“It was carried over to today. So now that we are here, could you please, educate the Committee on the functions of African First Lady Peace Mission projects, taking into cognizance, funds allocated for the project in the past.

Year 2020, N500 million, 2021, N225 million, 2022, N500 million; 2023, N150 million.

In her response, the Minister explained that the N150 million that appropriated in 2023 was eventually given to the former first lady, Aisha Buhari who eventually told her it was meant for the purchase of generator.

“About the First Lady’s funds. The N500 million you talked about, I wasn’t there when it happened. When I came in, I saw it on the appropriation act. And I went to my First Lady. We discussed. She said that particular money was not meant for her.

“It was meant for the former First Lady because that was when that money was allocated, and the former First Lady later, called me and said they wanted to use it for the purchase of generator.

“After a while, she came back, called me, and she brought the person that was supposed to purchase the generator. I introduced the person to the procurement officer then, who is now retired, that is the last, I heard of that,” the Minister said.

At this point, members of the Committee were surprised that the Minister could identify the contractors or address of the contractors who executed the African First Lady Peace Mission project.

When further asked to respond to more questions, the Minister said: “I won’t answer what is not within my purview.”

The Committee members at this point insisted to know if it was the first Lady Oluremi Tinubu that directed the Minister to hand over the money to the former first lady, Aisha Buhari.

The Minister further stated that since she is not the Accountant of the Ministry, she doesn’t know much about finance and expenditure.

“No, but I’m trying to explain myself, Like I said, I’m not an accountant to know how much cash they have in their bank statements. All I can see is the appropriation paper, the budget. And it was right there in the budget of last year. It was there,” she said.

At this point, the Chairman of the Committee asked the procurement officer to explain to the Committee, how the money was spent.

Chairman of the Committee at this juncture, asked the procurement officer, if the Minister was aware of the project.

“The procurement did their job. I don’t get myself involved. If anything, it’s supposed to go through the normal process. I don’t get myself involved,” the . procurement officer said.

The Committee Chairman however, adjourned the sitting, due to confrontation from the Minister.

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