The controversy trailing the alleged mis-management of funds meant for the care of Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) in the Boko Haram North East camp continued yesterday with the release of damning reports.
The Senate claimed in a report that the Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF), Mr. David Babachir Lawal, abused his oath of office by allegedly awarding contracts worth millions of Naira to a company in which he has interest.
Lawal on his part dismissed the Senate report and resolution as nonsense claiming that nothing of the sort alleged by the upper chamber happened.
But Cable.com an Online newspaper yesterday said that Rholavision Engineering Ltd, a company owned by Babachir Lawal, allegedly received “N200m kickback from a contract he awarded for the clearing of “invasive plant species” in Yobe State.
According to the report, “Rholavision bank statements and other documents showed that Josmon Technologies Ltd, a company, which got the contract from Lawal’s Presidential Initiative on Northeast (PINE) to clear grass for N248, 939, 231, made cash deposits of N10 million into Lawal’s company’s account 20 times from March 29.”
It said that “Lawal awarded the contract to Josmon Technologies on March 8 while the company made the cash deposits until September when he resigned from Rholavision.”
The SGF while reacting to a call for his resignation by the Senate on Wednesday claimed that he resigned from his company on August 15, 2015, and as a result was not a party to whatever business it contracted.
It said that “a document from the Corporate Affairs Commission (CAC) showed that Lawal was a director of Rholavision until September 16, 2016 when he wrote to the commission informing it of his intention to relinquish 1, 500, 000 ordinary shares.”
Reports had it that PINE, which is under SGF could not account for over N2.5 billion allocated to it for the alleviation of the suffering of IDPs in the Northeast.
The Senate had on Tuesday resolved to ask the Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF), David Babachir Lawal, to immediately resign his position so as to face prosecution over alleged abuse of office, contract inflation and misappropriation of Internally Displaced Persons (IDP) funds.
The funds, the Senate said, ran into billions of Naira.
The upper chamber also asked its ad-hoc committee Mounting Humanitarian Crisis in the North East to dig into alleged misappropriation of over N127 billion said to have been part of the donation for the care of IDPs.
This followed the consideration of the interim report of the ad-hoc committee presented by its Chairman, Senator Shehu Sani.
Other resolutions adopted by the damning report included that “The Federal government and States in the North East should as a matter of urgency ensure that food items are adequately and promptly provided to displaced persons in order to address the prevailing mal-nutrition observed amongst them;
“Serious efforts should be put by both federal and state governments of the North East to provide conducive learning atmosphere for the children of the lDPs.
“The Federal Ministry of Health should be compelled to immediately deploy their personnel to all the IDPs to support the efforts of the International Humanitarian Crisis Managers and the Nigerian Air Force medical team in providing the necessary medical assistance so as to avert possible outbreak of communicable diseases like cholera, measles, and diarrhoea etc.
“Federal and state government should intensify efforts towards reconstruction of destroyed infrastructure, rehabilitation and empowerment of the IDPs so that they can go back to their respective homes.
“The newly constituted Presidential Committee on the North East Initiative (PCNI) should ensure that there is synergy and proper coordination among all humanitarian crisis agencies if the IDPs are to gain maximally from the entire exercise.
“Any public officer culpable of contravening any of the Public Procurement Act, 2007 and the federal government Financial Rules and Regulations pertaining to the award of these contracts should be duly suspended and prosecuted by the relevant authorities.”
While the recommendation that the Bureau of Public Procurement (BPP) should undertake a revaluation ‘of all contracts awarded by PINE under the emergency situation arrangement to recover any proceeds from over-inflated contracts” was not carried, the lawmakers stepped down the recommendation that “Contracts partially executed but fully paid for must be completed by the concerned contractors, or asked to refund the equivalent money of outstanding jobs to the government treasury” until the submission of the full report.
Senator Sani noted in the interim report that sequel to the mandate given to the Ad-Hoc Committee on Mounting Humanitarian Crisis in the North East, Committee visited some of the IDPs camps in the North East and conducted a three-day Public Hearing after which it made its findings/observations.
On Humanitarian Crisis Management in IDPs: the committee said that “It is absolutely true, that there is serious humanitarian crisis in the North East as evidenced by the plight of the internally displaced persons both in camps and within the host communities. There is hunger, disease, squalor, deprivation and want amongst the IDPs.
On World Food Programme, the committee said: International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC); United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF); Doctors Without Borders, Dangote Group, were found in the camps.
It noted that, “there was vivid absence of the Federal Ministry of Health in all camps visited, however, while the few critical government agencies like National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA) as well as States Emergency Management Agency (SEMA) were noticed, but without synergy with other agencies. However, the Nigerian Air force medical team was found rendering medical services to the IDPs with the little equipment at their disposal.
“That despite the claim by some federal government agencies to the effect that huge sum of money is being spent on IDPs in the North East, what is on the ground as seen by the Committee does not justify/reflect the claims. For example:
“Over 70% of displaced children both in camps and with host communities were out of schools due to lack of classroom infrastructure, inadequate teaching materials and even teachers. They were also seen loitering in the camps mal-nourished, sickly, and poorly dressed;
“Generally, there is acute shortage of food amongst the IDPs, as observed in one of the IDPs visited, three bags of rice of 50kg each, a bag of beans of 50kg and a 4 liter of palm oil were given to 30 people for 15 days. These were considered too insufficient as confirmed by many IDPs that interacted with the Committee.”
On Contracts Award, the committee said, “The Committee discovered that all contracts from the Presidential Initiative on North East (PINE) were awarded under the principle of emergency situation as stipulated in Section 43 (i) & (ii) but with absolute disregard to Subsection (iii) & (iv) of the same Section 43 of the Public Procurement Act, 2007 which states that:
“All procurements made under emergencies shall be handled with explanation but along principles of accountability, due consideration being given to the gravity of each emergency.
“Immediately after the cessation of the situation warranting any emergency procurement, the procuring entity shall file a detailed report thereof with the bureau which shall verify same and appropriate issue a Certificate of ‘No Objection’.
Senator Baba Kaka Garbai (Borno Central) said that there was no doubt that the actions of the SGF is against his oath of office.
“The SGF should resign and be prosecuted for acting against his oath of office,” he said.
Senate Leader, Senator Mohammed Ali Ndume, specifically drew the attention of the Senate to alleged misappropriation of about $417 million (N127billion) from donor agencies.
On Wednesday, Lawal fired back by describing the Senate as “talking balderdash.”
Lawal said: “The Senate is talking balderdash; it has developed the habit of bring him down syndrome. Nigerians have decided that we should destroy our best; we should all destroy the promising and best among us by bringing people down without a cause. This is just how I saw it.
“I have the report of the Senate Committee in which it was said that I didn’t resign from Rholavision Nigeria Limited. Let me tell you, Rholavision was formed by me in December 1990, and it has been a company that was run very successfully.
“Now, when I was appointed Secretary to the Government of the Federation, I resigned from that company on 18th August 2015. I can see that in their report, they are talking about 2016. I don’t know where they got their facts.
“By the way, it is very instructive that when the committee was sitting, no effort was ever made to invite me to come and make a submission. It is therefore, surprising that they devoted a whole session of today (yesterday) at maligning me, claiming what is not true without even giving me the chance to come and put my own case before them.” (The Nation)