The Presidential Initiative on the North-East could not account for the sum of N2.5bn when its officials appeared before the Senate on Tuesday.
PINE is saddled with the responsibility of reconstructing and rehabilitating communities destroyed by the Boko Haram in the North-East.
The Senate Ad Hoc Committee on Mounting Humanitarian Crisis in the North-East, during a public hearing on its probe into the alleged diversion and mismanagement of funds for the humanitarian crisis in the region, said women in most of the Internally Displaced Persons’ camps were begging for sanitary pads.
The public hearing, which was held at the National Assembly Complex, Abuja, on Tuesday, had representatives from North-East states as well as some Federal Government agencies officials.
The ‘missing’ money was uncovered based on submissions and counter-submissions made at the session, which ranged from award and execution of non-existing contracts, inflated contracts to outright misappropriation of funds.
The officials of PINE could not account for the N2.5bn it received for the execution of intervention projects in the area when put on the spot by the committee.
While the Secretary of PINE, Umar Gulani, claimed that the body spent N203m to clear grass somewhere in Yobe State, stakeholders from the state, led by the state’s Commissioner for Information, Mohammed Lamin, disputed Gulani’s claim.
He said, “No taipa grass was cleared in the state by any Federal Government agency.”
Also, Gulani’s claim on clearing of invasive plants species around river banks in the state at the cost of N253m by PINE was denied by the commissioner and other Yobe officials. They also denied the N422.5m PINE official claimed was spent on the provision of temporary shelter (tents) for some families in the state.
Also dismissed was the claim by the presidential initiative that it had spent millions of naira on the renovation of about 18 schools completely wiped out by the Boko Haram insurgents in Yobe.
But Lamin stated that only three schools had been renovated in the state by agencies outside the state.
Members of the Senate committee had come very hard on PINE representatives at the forum, while directing Gulani to forward to them all documents, including photographs of claimed executed contracts, within one week.
The lawmakers asked why a paltry sum of N2m was spent by the initiative to feed IDPs, while it donated N50m to a non-governmental organisation, as clearly stated in PINE’s 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 N50m for a conference organised by an NGO.”
Another member of the committee, Senator Ben Murray-Bruce, said when the lawmakers visited some IDP camps in the North-East, many women cried out for provision of sanitary pads, which, he said, could have been taken care of if the N2.5bn given to PINE out of the budgeted N5bn had been well utilised. (Punchng.com)