Teddy Oscar, Abuja
The House of Representatives’ Committee on Environment has said that it would investigate the Mrs. Hadiza Mailafia-led Federal Ministry of Environment over allegation of corruption, especially the N2.6 billion that is lying idle with the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) and First City Monument Bank (FCMB).
This follows Hon. Pat Asadu’s allegation, who also observed that numerous contractors, who have executed over 60 percent of their jobs given were yet to be paid.
Asadu, who called for the total overhaul the ministry so as to stem lack of transparency and corruption, during an oversight function of the committee to the ministry, threatened that he was ready to withdraw his immunity and personally drag the ministry to the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission ( EFCC) for corruption.
He said that there have been complaints, written protests and allegations that money has to be paid by contractors before their letters of contract were signed.
“The lack of transparency and level of corruption in this ministry is a shame. The money you collect from contractors ensures that projects don’t get kicked off. I am going to mention names that can be prosecuted.
The companies that you select that are doing deals with you are talking to me,” he said.
He alleged that of constituency jobs worth N40 million, N9.1 million is collected from some contractors even before the commencement of the jobs given.
“Exposing, uprooting and prosecuting corruption in the ministry is the way forward. I will bring contractors who paid money and they will state whom they paid to,” he threatened.
While denying the allegation against the ministry, Mr. Haruna Taiye, permanent secretary, who represented the minister, challenged any contractor that has such claims to bring it to the fore.
He explained that the amount in question is meant for payments.
“I will like to meet one or two contractors who has this allegation. I am ready to discipline anyone that is doing that. Of the N4.1 billion released so far to the ministry, over N2. 6 billion (are for) payment, and this we will collect by tomorrow,” he replied.
According to him, this was exclusive of the N 1 billion in special duties ministry.
Members of the committee, who wanted to know, if the N2.6 billion was idle funds or money from over budgeting, however, queried the wisdom of domiciling such a huge amount with CBN and FCMB a few weeks to the end of the year.
Taiye further shocked the committee members when he said the money in the accounts would be nil in the next few weeks.
When asked by the members how he intended to make such a huge amount of money disappear in such a short time, he responded that he has more than enough outstanding payments to gulp the said amount.
The committee also expressed displeasure that of the 140 projects on erosion control the ministry was handling as it could only satisfactorily explain 28 of them.
Following the allegation, Hon. Uche Ekwunife, chairperson of the committee, said that “the committee will investigate, and if the allegations are true, we will not hesitate to recommend that the appropriate sanctions be taken against anyone found wanting.
“On the Green Wall Project, we keep waiting, this is the fourth month and nothing has happened. We want the list of contractors, the people that applied and those that were chosen, and statement of accounts of the Ministry of Environment for the past two years- both recurrent and capital.”
She requested for the account the ministry for the past two years and the contractors handling the Green Wall Project.
Also the Committee also visited National Environmental Standards and Regulations Enforcement Agency (NESREA) as part of the oversight.
According to the director general of the agency, Dr. (Mrs.) Ngeri Benebo, out of a total of N2.9 billion appropriated, N2. 2 billion was released for the agency and that 99.75 percent of the released amount has been utilized.
At the National Oil Spill Detection and Response Agency (NOSDRA) the committee queried the sudden jump in the personnel register of the agency from about 200 to 500 within a single month without the approval of the National Assembly and wondered where the agency would find the funds to pay them.
Ekwunife said in spite of the huge funds channeled into the agency, “We have not seen appreciable cleanup by the oil companies and people living in the oil producing communities are miserable.”