Tinubu’s women affairs minister Uju Kennedy accused of spending N75 million on sanitary pads and others

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Uju Kennedy-Ohanenye, the woman affairs minister under President Bola Ahmed Tinubu’s government has been accused of spending unrelated expenditures which include N45 million for a New Year party, N20million for sanitary pads and N1.5million for vehicle fuel.

This was revealed on Wednesday why she was being interrogated by the House of Representatives over the non-payment of N1.5billion to contractors in spite of the fund release in Abuja.

The probe followed a petition from contractors, and also sought clarification on funds appropriated for the African First Lady’s mission and the whereabouts of the N1.5billion meant for contractor payments.

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The lawmakers led by Rep. Kafilat Ogbara, Chairman, House Committee on Women Affairs Kafilat said that the investigative hearing was aimed at uncovering the truth and not witch-hunting the Minister and officials of the ministry.

The committee also investigated alleged diversion of funds meant for contractor’s payments, following a petition from contractors.

The committee also sought clarification on funds appropriated for the African First Lady’s mission and the whereabouts of the N1.5 billion meant for contractor payments.

The minister however denied the allegations of misappropriation, overspending, and non-payment to contractors.

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She said the financial issues and unpaid contracts cited by lawmakers took place under her predecessor.

The minister was asked to respond to questions concerning funds that were meant for the office of the African First Ladies Peace Mission and to account for award letters of contracts in the ministry, details of expected quantities, evidence of payment, and project completion certificate amongst others.

“The procurement officer told us that all that the contractors said was true. Most of the contractors were not paid for the jobs that they did. The DFA affirmed that he was paying only those he got approval from his superiors.

“And please, we don’t want to be distracted and we don’t want our time wasted. When we ask questions, just answer directly. For those of us who are APC inclined, we want this country to work and this is a special ministry.

“There are a lot of Nigeria suffering out there and we have a lot of money being budgeted for women’s affairs even though some of us think that this budget is one of the lowest.

“It’s not the amount of money you have, but how judicious, transparent and efficient you’re able to manage what has been given to you. All of you from the ministry should tell us what is happening in the ministry.

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“Based on information that we have, we want you to give us the true answers as it is. What we are after is for every kobo and naira appropriated for the ministry by this committee is judiciously accounted for. We are not joking with our responsibility as oversight,” Ogbara said.

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In her response, the minister said the contracts and funds in question were carried out and released prior to her tenure as minister, and noted that so far, since this year, no fund has been released to the ministry or any other and this has been a huge constraint.

On the funds relating to the office of the African First Ladies Peace Mission, she said, “The money you were talking 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 and we discussed and she said that particular budget was not meant for her, but for the former first lady because that was when the money was allocated.

“The former first lady called me later and said they wanted to use it to buy generator and in the process, she was out of the country for a while. When she returned, she called me and brought the person that would organise the fixing of the generator.

“I introduced the person to the procurement officer for them to work together according to the rules and regulations of procurement and they have been on it. Once in a while I talk to the first lady to find out how they’ve been on it and that’s the last I heard of it, and now the procurement officer has retired.

“I am not the first lady and I can’t overstep my bounds. The first lady only advises me to focus on my work. All I went to tell her is that there’s some money and I only take directives when given.”

After a charged interactive session between the minister and the committee on women affairs and social development, chaired by Hon. Kafilat Ogbara, the session was forced to be adjourned till further notice.

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