HURIWA calls for independent investigation into the alleged N48bn scam in Federal Agriculture Ministry

Posted by News Express | 24 May 2020 | 515 times

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The Human Rights Writers Association of Nigeria (HURIWA) has expressed strong disappointment with the Federal Government’s handling of the raging allegations of almost N48 billion scam at the Federal Ministry of Agriculture in which its erstwhile Permanent Secretary and now the Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Science and Technology, Alhaji Mohammed Umar Bello, was reportedly indicted by the Head of Service of the Federation and queried on the orders of President Muhammadu Buhari. 

HURIWA recalled that the Permanent Secretary, who was accused of “serious misconduct” while serving in the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development, has replied to the Federal Government, saying he did no wrong just as he reportedly claimed that the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) had cleared him.

HURIWA however recalled that the Head of the Civil Service of the Federation, Dr. Folasade Yemi-Esan, had, on the order of the President, queried Umar for allegedly buying “uncompleted carcass” building for the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development in the sum of N7 billion just as he was also accused of giving out seven deep drilling rigs for borehole procured at N1.3 billion to some unnamed individuals under “fraudulent arrangements.”

He was also accused of failing to pay eligible contractors despite budgetary release of N98.4billion Appropriation leading to an outstanding of N49 billion.

HURIWA recalled that the indicted Permanent secretary Mohammed Umar Bello had reportedly in a six-page response, dated May 14, 2020, denied all the allegations leveled against him.

The rights group said it is however shocked that top government officials, including President Buhari and the Head of Service, went ahead to issue a query which has seemingly been contradicted by the indicted Permanent Secretary who now claimed that the same authority issuing him the indictments actually approved that the Federal Ministry of Agriculture should proceed with purchasing an uncompleted housing asset described as ‘carcass of an uncompleted building’ for the humongous price of N7 billion amongst other alleged infractions which the Permanent Secretary has disputed.

HURIWA recalled that the President had reportedly ordered the Head of Service to issue the query to Dr. Bello, who is now in the Ministry of Science and Technology, for allegedly failing to pay eligible contractors despite budgetary release of N98.4bn in 2018 appropriation, leading to an outstanding N49bn.

HURIWA has therefore faulted the entire scenario playing out as political drama “because it is inconceivable and indeed outrageous that the President of the country can order that a query be issued to an appointee over allegations that the same official of government has claimed that the approving authority who is the President and who ordered his indictment was actually the one who approved all the transactions for which he is being indicted.”

The rights group said it is unimaginable that the Permanent Secretary was queried for the same allegations that he claimed that the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) investigated, interrogated and cleared him without such sensitive information of such a high profile investigation not being made known to the President.

HURIWA expressed consternation that “even though the EFCC is under the supervision of the Federal Attorney General and Minister of Justice who is answerable to the President, yet the President is not in the know that one of his Permanent Secretaries was investigated and he (the President) went ahead to issue him a query over same allegations and he has now come out to make the sensational claims that the Agriculture Minister and the FEC were all involved in the said alleged official misdemeanor of purchasing a carcass of an uncompleted building for N7 billion?

“These questions are begging for acceptable answers and the way to go is to constitute an independent judicial panel to investigate these allegations since the EFCC and ICPC appeared not to have behaved in a professionally competent manner going by the fact that the President ordered a query to a man who says the anti-graft panels cleared him.”

Source: News Express

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