The Human Rights Writers Association of Nigeria, HURIWA, has categorically stated that the inferno at the office complex of the Accountant-General of the Federation, also known as Treasury House, is suspicious and scary.
HURIWA, in a statement signed by its National Coordinator, Emmanuel Onwubiko and made available to Newsmen in reaction to the earlier reported fire outbreak, said it may not be unconnected to serial accusations of financial irregularities as made by the National Assembly and a cross section of Nigerians, including the Academic Staff Union of Universities, ASUU.
The group asked Nigerians to demand forensic investigations by independent criminal forensic scientists to ascertain the real motives or otherwise behind the sudden fire incident barely 24 hours after the Senate made a startling discovery of alleged monumental heist of the Schools Feeding Programmes of the Federal Government of Nigeria.
HURIWA, in the statement, also said that Nigerians should not accept any Cock-and-bull stories but must insist that the Nigerian Government comes clean on how it has been unable to transparently render accounts of revenues generated from internal and external sources.
It further alleged that there were too many things wrong with the administration of public finance by a set of Federal Government officials who publishes claims in the media that the Nigerian Customs Service and the Federal Inland Revenue Services generated multibillion revenues since the year 2015 but only for the Finance minister to be going cap-in-hand perpetually begging for foreign loans from all conceivable sovereign entities.
“Something is not adding up. This is why this sudden fire incident at the office of the Accountant General of the Federation that has happened barely few hours after serious suspicions of misuse of public fund running into billions was raised by the usually pliant and docile National Assembly,” HURIWA cried out.
HURIWA stated that the fire incident was too coincidental and has happened at a time of mounting accusations of frauds and failures by the Federal Government to account for how multi-billions fund it budgeted and released for the payment of N20,000 palliative to poor Nigerians to cushion the effects and economic adversities created by the lockdown was used.
The Rights group stated also that “there is every need for a transparent and an open process of investigations to be activated to unravel the remote and immediate circumstances behind the fire incident at the office of the Accountant General of the Federation in Abuja given that it was not more than two weeks that the Senate reportedly indicted the Accountant General of the Federation for failing to provide documentary evidence on the implementation of the controversial new payment scheme known as Integrated Payroll and Personal Information IPPIS.”
Besides, HURIWA wants the National Assembly to go beyond the mere dramatization of the accusations of monumental heist by some officials in the Presidency responsible for the School Feeding Programme in which a whopping amount of N12 billion is spent monthly without the observation and absolute adherence to the time tested and time honoured provisions of the nationally binding law of the procurement mechanisms as provided by the Procurement Act of the Federation.
HURIWA carpeted the National Assembly leadership for failing to insist on getting the names of the consultant that collects N100 million monthly from the failed school feeding programmes of the federation mired in a slew of financial malfeasance for long.
“The oversight functions of the National Assembly is not to be used to stage media drama to buy accolades from the people of Nigeria. The Constitution empowers the National Assembly to unravel dubious activities around the spending of public resources, name, shame and recommend for prosecution by the relevant anti corruption bodies. Nobody in government must be treated as a sacred cow. When the legislative powers of the Federation is turned into a joke then the essence of constitutional democracy is miserably abused.
“HURIWA strongly believes that the Fire which on Wednesday gutted the Treasury House which is the office of the Accountant General of the Federation in the Federal Capital Territory, Abuja is too suspicious to be dismissed as a mere accident or happenstance. This incident is notorious in Nigeria as public officials are known to always set their offices ablaze in a bid to cover up their tracks.
“This time around there are series of questions being asked by all and sundry on how over N60 billion or so was reportedly blown away by the federal government in the guise of implementing conditional cash transfer to some ghosts and some political nitwitts rather than to the millions of poor Nigerians all across board. How did these cash got shared and frittered away in few hours?
“To whom did these humongous cash get to and where are their records since the National Assembly only Yesterday raised alarm and 24 hours later there was fire at the office of the Accountant General of the Federation? We are not accusing anyone of theft. We have not called any officer of the federal government a thief but certainly we smelt a rat.
“But what we know is that this fire is too suspicious to be dismissed as a mere accident or happenstance. We must get to the roots of this scam. As learnt it was gathered that the fire started from around the third floor, razing the building upwards including the Accountant General’s office and most of the important offices.
“HURIWA recalled that around February 18th of this Year the Senate’s Public Accounts Committee adjourned abruptly following the inability of the Office of the Accountant General of the Federation to give details of the Integrated Payroll and Personnel Information System, IPPIS is an Information Communications Technology project initiated by the Federal Government of Nigeria to improve the effectiveness and efficiency of payroll administration for its Ministries, Departments and Agencies but has faced a series of opposition and accusations of frauds,” it said.
HURIWA recalled that the Accountant General was not available to answer an audit query raised against his office but his representative, who is a director in his office, Adiro Emmanuel, was unable to answer questions asked him by members of the Senate panel.
“The senators expressed anger over the director’s inability to provide necessary documents pertaining to the IPPIS account put at N2.9bn. Unhappy that they could not achieve much with the probe, members of the Senate panel called for immediate adjournment of proceedings.
“The Chairman of the panel, Senator Mathew Urhoghide, adjourned the session and gave the Accountant General two weeks to tidy his documents and make himself available to the panel. The Accountant General was also unable to provide satisfactory response to why Nigeria’s share of funds dropped drastically from N200bn to N165bn in 2015.
“On the query concerning the N596bn Ecological Fund and why the fund was not invested to yield more money for Nigeria, the Accountant General’s explanation that it was against CBN policy to do so wasn’t satisfactory to the lawmakers.
“HURIWA smells a rat in this reported inferno at the office of the Accountant General of the Federation and we strongly condemn all these shameful acts of something that appears to be an attempt to cover up so many cases of misapplication of public fund.
“This is not how to administer the commonwealth of our Country. The earlier we fish out bad eggs and punish them the better gor all us. Allegations of monumental fraud perpetrated at the Social Investment Programmes (SIPs) reportedly created a lot of indignation amongst the leadership of the National Assembly even as the President of the Senate, Ahmad Lawan, and the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Femi Gbajabiamila, made their reservations at a meeting with the Minister of Humanitarian Affairs, Disaster Management and Social Development, Hajia Sadiya Umar Farouq and some top officials of the ministry in Abuja,” they further stated.
HURIWA asked Nigerians to meticulously note that the two presiding National Assembly officers called for the immediate suspension of the register used for the scheme when informed by officials that accompanied the minister to the gathering that some N12 billion was being paid monthly for the school feeding programme without verification.
“This call was made only Yesterday and now the fire. Who is fooling who?
“HURIWA as well as millions of Nigerians have been reliably told that another issue that provoked the Senate President Ahmed Lawan and Speaker of the House of Representatives Mr. Femi Gbajbabiamila was the N100 million monthly payment to an unnamed consultant that purportedly handles some aspects of the project.
“Nigerians are invited to note that the Humanitarian Affairs minister Hajia Farouq reportedly informed the National Assembly leaders that she inherited the ‘mess.’
“HURIWA is worried that the National Assembly failed to dig further with a view to ascertaining how these huge cash was spent following the disclosure that the minister was said to have told the lawmakers that she does not understand why the school feeding project was adopted for COVID-19, adding that “even other programmes have so many inadequacies that her ministry is still trying to unravel. HURIWA seriously thinks the fire incident at the office of the Accountant General of the Federation has the signature of something sinister and suspicious given that even the minister of Humanitarian Affairs admitted that there were inadequacies in the administration of the huge fund meant for the School Feeding programme,” they claimed.