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Senate probes alleged diversion of funds meant for IDPs and PCNI


The Senate may be set for another face-off with the presidency over alleged illegal diversion of N18 billion from the N48 billion earmarked for the Presidential Committee on the Northeast Initiative (PCNI).
The National Assembly had approved the N48 billion for rehabilitation of millions of Internally Displaces Persons (IDPs) and rebuilding of the six Northeastern states ravaged by the Boko Haram insurgency in the 2017 budget.
But one of President Muhammadu Buhari’s Ministers and a high ranking Presidency official were alleged to have diverted N18, 227,065,037.50 of the funds sometime in August 2017.
According to documents sighted by our correspondent, N5 billion of the N18.2 billion had already been withdrawn by the two government functionaries for a project they termed the “Bama Initiative,” which sources said, is alien to the PCNI.
The N5 billion was captured under a subhead of “retraining of security personnel in the Northeast zone,” a responsibility clearly outside the purview of the PCNI.
It was gathered that the alleged heist was perpetrated through a decoy account code named the “Northeast Intervention Fund” and executed during the 104 days President Buhari was away in London on medical vacation.

cholera borno
A group sensitised IDPs on personal hygiene in Borno

A competent government source confided in our correspondent during the week the two influential officials have kept the chairman of the PCNI, General Theophilus Danjuma (rtd), in the dark on the shadowy deal.
While inaugurating the PCNI in October 2016, President Buhari had directed all government agencies involved in humanitarian efforts in the Northeast to collapse into PCNI, which he mandated to coordinate all intervention activities in the zone.
Going by the President’s directives, the PCNI is charged with the task of coordinating interventions by public, private, national and foreign development partners.
According to the President, the PCNI: “is charged with the responsibility for developing the strategy and implementation of the framework for rebuilding the Northeast region”.
The N48 billion was meant to address humanitarian crises in the 112 local governments in the six affected states of Borno, Yobe, Adamawa, Bauchi, Gombe and Taraba.
The controversial “Bama Initiative” project, for which the N18.2 billion was diverted, is purportedly in respect of the Bama local government in Borno State where the high ranking Presidency official hails from.
Further investigation revealed the said Presidential official appointed himself chairman of the “Bama Initiative” with the Procurement Committee also under his charge while the said Minister is chairperson of its “Project Committee”.
It would be the second time the Senate would be beaming its searchlight on issues arising from the management of the N48 billion vote for the terror-ridden Northeast zone.
Following similar reports of diversion of funds from the coffers of the then Presidential Initiative on the North East (PINE), the Senate had in 2016 instituted a probe into the expenditures of the PINE.
The investigation had unearthed fraudulent award of contracts and violation of the provisions of the Procurement Act, for which the then Secretary to the Government of the Federal (SGF), Engr. Babachir David Lawal was indicted.
The indictment, contained in a report of extensive investigation by a Senate ad hoc Committee on the Mounting Humanitarian Crises in the Northeast, revealed how Babachir Lawal diverted over N500 million of the budgeted funds.
The fraud was perpetrated through Rholavision Engineering Limited, a company in which Lawal was discovered to have substantial interests.
Other companies fronting for the former SGF were also discovered to have paid huge sums of money into 13 different bank accounts linked to Lawal.
Based on the report by the chairman of the Senate ad hoc Committee Senator Shehu Sani (Kaduna Central) and other members of the panel, the Senate had recommended the immediate dismissal and prosecution of the former SGF.
The overwhelming evidence contained in the Senate’s report, released in December 2016 and public outcry over the fraud, forced President Buhari to send Lawal on indefinite suspension on April 19, 2017. The suspension order is still in force.
A National Assembly source confirmed to our correspondent at the weekend that the Senate may begin the process of investigation as soon as it resumes from recess on September 26.

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