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Friday, February 3, 2023

Nigerian senate clears Niger Delta minister Umana of N480bn fraud allegation

The Senate committee on ethics, privileges and public petitions has exonerated the minister of Niger Delta Affairs, Umana Okon Umana of alleged misappropriation and an illegal sack of workers levelled against him.

The committee tagged as baseless the petition in which the allegations were made.

The chairman of the committee, Senator Ayo Akinyelure, who spoke to newsmen in Abuja on Thursday, said the committee had determined that the allegation of misappropriating N480 billion funds of the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) levelled against him was false.

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Akinyelure said the committee has confirmed as earlier explained by the minister that there was no attempt at any wrongful act, but a lawful plan for core regional projects to be included in the amended NDDC 2021/2022 budget as approved by President Muhammadu Buhari for a new regional development scheme in the nine states of Niger Delta.

He commended the minister for working to ensure the transmission of the NDDC budgets for 2021/2022 and 2023 to the National Assembly for legislative approval.

He also expressed satisfaction with the Minister’s contribution to the efforts to constitute the governing board of the NDDC which is currently undergoing legislative approval at the Senate.

The committee dismissed as untrue the allegation that the minister wanted to sack the interim administrator (IA) of the NDDC, noting that the tenure of the IA had come to an end as his appointment was meant to last for the period of the Forensic Audit into the activities of the NDDC.

On the alleged sack of 100 workers of the NDDC, the committee noted that there was no evidence that such disengagement had ministerial approval and urged the minister to ensure that cases of undocumented employments and unauthorized sack of workers of the Commission.

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Meanwhile, Nigeria’s finance minister, Zainab Ahmed, has been summoned by the senate to explain an allocation of N206 billion inserted into the 2023 budget of the Ministry of Humanitarian Affairs, Disaster Management, and Social Development.

The invitation followed a claim by Sadiya Umar Farouq, the Minister of Humanitarian Affairs, Disaster Management and Social Development, that her Ministry was unaware of how the N206 billion was inserted into its 2023 budget.

Farouk, who appeared before the Senate Panel on Special Duties to defend the 2023 Budget, on Monday, November 21, 2022, explained that her Ministry had requested some projects for the North East Development Commission (NEDC) and National Social Safety Net Project in the 2022 budget.

Trouble started when one of the Committee members, Senator Elisha Abbo, asked the Minister about the controversial N206 billion in her budget.

But, the Minister in her response, said, “Yes we made mention of the projects for 2022, which was not released and part of it was part for the NEDC.

“The money was not released and now we have seen it recurring by almost 10 folds, we are also going to clarify from the ministry of finance to know why this increased, despite the fact that the previous year, the money was not even released for the project.

“So we will get the details and then send them to you on that.

“On upscaling of the National Social Safety Net Project. These projects under the national social safety nests, the condition cash transfer, the updating of the national social register and the rapid response register as well to cushion the effect of inflation.

“This is all I can say for this. I cannot really give full details of how this amount is going to be utilised because it is something that was negotiated between the ministry of finance and the world bank.”

Shocked by the response, Senator Abbo said, ” This is serious. We cannot continue to borrow money and plunge this country into debt for our children to come and pay without investing in what they will see.”

The Chairman of the Committee, Senator Yusuf Yusuf, therefore, moved a motion to summon the Minister of Finance, Zainab Ahmed, to explain to the Committee the controversial sum.

”I want to move a motion that the minister of finance should appear before this committee to furnish this committee with details of what they intend to do with N206 billion in the 2023 budget.

“Now that the minister has said that she is not in charge of negotiation, of course, she is not, the minister of finance is”, Senator Yusuf said.

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