The Senate ad-hoc committee on the north-east humanitarian crisis has uncovered seeming incidents of corruption in the activities of the Presidential Initiative for the North East, PINE.
At a hearing to ascertain the extent of work so far put in by PINE, the lawmakers noted with regret the many cases of phantom projects and inflated contracts as well as poor accountability standards which they said have hindered the efforts at addressing the humanitarian crisis and rebuilding infrastructure in the north eastern region.
Chairman of PINE, Umar Gulani, could not give a proper account of about N2.5 billion being part of the money released to the committee for capital intervention.
PREMIUM TIMES reported that in one instance, Gulani claimed that the agency had spent N203 million to clear taipa grass in Yobe State; but this was rebutted by the State’s Commissioner for Information, Mohammed Lamin.
“No taipa grass was cleared in the state by any federal government agency in Yobe State,” Lamin retorted
Gulani also claimed that the committee also spent N253 million on the clearing of invasive plants species around river banks in the state; and another N422.5 million to provide tents to displaced families in the state.
These claims were all disputed by the Yobe State representatives led by the commissioner for information, Lamin.
The commissioner also rejected Gulani’s claims that PINE had spent several millions of naira to renovate 18 schools which were completely destroyed by the Boko Haram in Yobe State alone.
Lamin told the Senate committee that only three schools were renovated by agencies outside the state.
Chairman of the Senate Committee, Shehu Sani directed the PINE chairman to produce evidence, including photographs and documents of contracts claimed to have been executed by the agency.
Another member of the senate committee and former governor of Abia State, Theodore Orji, criticized PINE and its management for the shoddiness with which it conducted its activities.
“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 N50 million for a conference organised by an NGO,” he said.
Also speaking at the hearing, Ben Murray-Bruce noted that when the committee visited some IDP camps in the North East, many women complained about lack of basic provision such as sanitary pads.
He said issues such as those would have been adequately taken care of if the N2.5 billion given to PINE out of the budgeted N5 billion was well utilised.
As shown in PINE’s statement of accounts, the initiative donated N50 million to an unnamed NGO, but it spent only N2 million to feed internally displaced persons who were supposed to be its major focus.
The Senate ad-hoc committee was set up in October following a motion by Baba Garbai, alleging that funds meant for Boko Haram victims were allegedly being mismanaged.