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November 28, 2020

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Nigerians demand probe into illegal payments to officials under Fashola

5 min read

There are calls for a probe into the illegal payment of ₦4.6 billion into the personal accounts of some officials of the former ministry of power, works and housing, then headed by Babatunde Fashola, since PREMIUM TIMES published the story.

An investigation by this newspaper revealed a lodgment of ₦4.6 billion was illegally paid into the private accounts of some directors and employees in the last third of 2019, when power, works and housing was one ministry.

The payments were made to 21 staff members within four months, with two-thirds of the amount going to the duo of Ogueri Ugochukwu Pascal and Olasehinde Micah.

The former was paid ₦1.6 billion while the latter got ₦1.4 billion.

Now separate ministries, the ministry of power and the ministry of works and housing, both gave no information about the two men, and online searches for their names yielded little luck.

Ministry of works and housing declined to reveal the identity of staff it paid into their private accounts and for what reasons (Credit: Yusuf Akinpelu)

The ministry of power said they are not its staff. Works and housing ministry declined to comment.

The discovery of the series of suspicious payments made by the ministry in the last lap of 2019 has, nonetheless, heightened the call for a probe by Nigerians.

Olanrewaju Suraj, the chairman of Human and Environmental Development Agenda, a not-for-profit anti-corruption group, said on Tuesday that at a time the country was battling to shore up its revenue base, it was very sad that officials could fritter away public funds without respite.

Calls

Meanwhile, in reaction to the illegal payments, some Nigerians have asked the government to wield its anti-corruption promise with which it came to power on the erring officials.

“EFCC looking for politicians up and down (especially) those in (the) opposition,” Usman Madaki, a Twitter user who tweets @UsmanMadaki19, wrote on his wall on Tuesday. “Meanwhile the bastion of corruption, civil servants, left to do whatever they like.”

Another user, Bukola Nelson, hoped the see the discoveries “go beyond (being a) news.” He, however, raised concerns about the integrity of the nation’s anti-corruption agencies and the legislature on “how financial crimes can be the state or it agencies be prosecuted.”

“How do we take our country back from these greed-accursed thieves?” he simply asked.

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Mr Suraj told PREMIUM TIMES the discovery was a chance for the nation’s anti-corruption agencies to prove their mettle in the fight against corruption.

“The government should get the money back into the its coffers. The government should be swift in not only investigating and prosecuting these people, but ensuring they do it in public,” he told this newspaper over the phone.

“Suddenly it escaped the notice of the NFIU and EFCC. And the CBN won’t go to court to obtain an order to freeze the account because it is not #EndSARS. The court itself won’t give the order,” came the comment of yet another user who tweets @nafeezi.

Elsewhere, on Facebook, Abdullahi Aibro said despite the government’s introduction of the single treasury account and BVN to ensure monitoring of financial flow, “what is still missing is crime and punishment.”

“Gradually, the rot in the public service is coming to the open. The TSA is forcing these corrupt transactions to be exposed. It’s not a regime thing, it’s the Nigerian civil service that’s the cesspool of corruption. Having worked briefly in the civil service, the politicians are saints compared to civil servants,” Mr Aibro commented on Facebook.

“That is how they siphon unspent budgeted funds at the end of every year,” Richard Akpakpan, also commented on Facebook. “Legislative oversight function should start from when budget are passed rather than auditing past budget when money have already been diverted.”

Although, the ministry of power claimed most of the funds it disbursed were paid as duty tour allowances for staff to attend conferences and training, Mr Suraj said there was no way the ministry could justify paying billions of naira in four months as DTA, especially as it ran foul of the law.

Ministry of power said it paid most of the money paid into the private accounts of its staff mostly for Dta (Credit: Yusuf Akinpelu)

He said the explanation offered by the ministry was an attempt to distract the public from the illegalities they perpetuated.

“This is an attempt by the ministry to distract. You cannot make an anticipatory payment as huge as that with little details,” he said, adding that “the discovery should be told to the law enforcement agencies.”

Read the comments by Nigerians on the findings in the report:



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