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N48b: HURIWA Calls for Independent Judicial Panel to investigate Agric Ministry Scam

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Maureen Okpe

The Human Rights Writers Association of Nigeria (HURIWA) has demanded from the Federal Government the constitution of an independent judicial panel to investigate the ministry of Agriculture on the misappropriation of N48 billion and the purchase of an uncompleted building with an exorbitant amount of N7 billion.

The call is coming as it is deemed fit by the group, regarding that the Economic and Financial Crime Commission (EFCC) and Independent Corrupt Practices Commission (ICPC) appeared to have demonstrated incompetence and unprofessionalism, going by the fact that the President ordered a query to a man who says the anti-graft panels cleared him.

HURIWA in a statement signed by the group’s National Coordinator, Comrade Emmanuel Onwubiko, expressed strong disappointment with the Federal Government’s handling on the allegations of about N48 billion scam at the Federal Ministry of Agriculture in which it’s erstwhile permanent secretary Alhaji Mohammed Umar Bello,now the Permanent Secretary of ministry Science and technology was reportedly indicted by the Head of Service of the Federation and queried on the orders of President Muhammadu Buhari.

According to Onwubiko, 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 Head of the Civil Service of the Federation, Dr Folasade Yemi-Esan, had, on the order of the President, Muhammadu Buhari queried Umar for allegedly buying ‘uncompleted carcass’ building for the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development in the sum of N7bn.

“According to the letter from the Office of the Head of Service of the Federation dated 11 May, 2020, with a reference number HCSF/POS/ P. 030/58, and titled ‘Allegations for acts of misconducts in your former post of permanent secretary in the Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development: Preliminary Letter/Query’, he is also accused of purchasing 7 deep drilling rigs for N300 million without recourse to the Federal Executive Council.

“He was also accused of failing to pay eligible contractors despite budgetary release of N98,405,763,678.68 in 2018 Appropriation leading to an outstanding of N49 billion.

“The Permanent Secretary, Dr Mohammed Bello Umar, was accused of ‘serious misconduct’ while serving as the Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development, claiming to have replied to the Federal Government, saying he did no wrong just as he reportedly stated that the EFCC had cleared him.

HURIWA is however shocked that top government officials including President Muhammadu Buhari and the Head of Service went ahead to issue a query which has seemingly been contradicted by the indicted Permanent secretary Umar Bello who now claimed that the same authority issuing him the indictments actually approved that the Federal ministry of Agriculture should proceed with purchasing an asset described as ‘Carcass of an uncompleted building’ for the humonguous price of N7 billion amongst other alleged infractions which the Permanent Secretary has disputed.

The group however expressed consternation that though EFCC is under the supervision of the Federal Attorney General and minister of justice,the Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice is answerable to the President, how come the President is not in the know that one of his Permanent Secretaries was investigated adding, the President went ahead to issue a query over same allegations to the Permanent secretary who has now come out to make the sensational claims that the Agriculture minister and the Federal Executive Council were all involved in the said alleged official misdeameanor.

“These questions are begging for acceptable answers and the way to go is to constitute an independent Judicial panel to investigate these allegations,”he stated.

“HURIWA strongly feels that something is wrong. Indeed there is more to it than meets the eyes.

Stating further he cited a similar case in Oyo state. “Recently, the Ibadan zonal office of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, arraigned a Permanent Secretary in the Oyo State Ministry of Agriculture, Alhaji Rasaq Kolawole, for allegedly defrauding one Ibikunle Alonge of N4,400.000 (Four Million, Four Hundred Thousand Naira). So how come that a bigger case of purchasing a house described by the Head of Service of the Federation as a carcass of an uncompleted building for N7B and they are telling Nigerians that due process was followed to carry out such an indefensible transaction or is it that the most powerful politicians are involved? Nigerians should demand for a transparent process to get to the roots of this alleged scam.”

The Rights group states, “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 a sensitive information of such a high profile investigation not being made known to the President.

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


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