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N119bn fraud: Group demands perm sec’s suspension

Adetutu Folasade-Koyi, Abuja

Citizens Watch Advocacy Initiative (CWAI), Abuja, has urged the Federal Government to immediately, suspend Dr Mohammed Umar Bello, former permanent secretary in the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development, who presently occupies same position in the Ministry of Science and Technology.

In a statement by its Executive Secretary, Omoba Kenneth Aigbegbele, CWAI hinged its decision on the query issued to Umar and noted that his conduct was “unbecoming of an officer holding public trust and a flagrant violation of the constitutional and statutory provisions regulating the Nigerian Public Service.”

In view of the foregoing, “CWAI hereby strongly recommends the immediate suspension of Dr. Bello. This is to pave way for proper and unbiased investigation into the matter…”

On Monday, May 11, 2020, the Office of the Head of the Civil Service of the Federation queried Dr. Umar was issued a query which bordered on “allegations of acts of serious misconduct in your former post as permanent secretary in the ministry of Agriculture  and Rural Development; to the tune of N199 billion respectively.”

The group added: “As champions of transparency, accountability and good governance in public service, CWAI has critically examined the contents of the query, including investigations of sources within the Ministry and decided to issue the following statement, so as to serve as an example to other public officers holding positions of trust, not to toe the line of infamy and financial recklessness and infractions.

According to the query, it was alleged that: (a) in spite of the budgetary release of the N98,405,763,678.68 in 2018 (which represents 99.44 of 2018 appropriation), you did not take necessary action to pay the eligible contractors which led to the ministry having an outstanding contractual liability in the sum of N48,429,543,895.72;

“(b) under your leadership as the accounting officer, the minister utilized the entire 2019 first quarter release of N7,737,208,135.18 to pay for the 2018 contracts that were fully funded in 2018 which constitutes virement without authority;

“(c) as accounting officer, you oversaw a transaction for the purchase of a building for the use of the ministry at the sum of N7,044,746,264.06 without the conduct of the mandatory statutory structural and mechanical integrity tests: and prior approval of the FCDA Public Building Department: the building was eventually found to be an uncompleted carcass requiring billions of naira to complete and make safe for occupation;

“(d) under your watch as the accounting officer, the ministry procured seven deep drilling rigs for borehole at an average cost of N300, 000, 000. 00 without recourse to the Federal Executive Council (FEC);

“(e) and in April, 2019, you gave out the seven rigs procured at over NI.3bn  to some individuals under fraudulent arrangements, without the approval of the minister; and one of the rigs linked to you is yet to be returned despite several written reminders; and

“(f) you misapplied the intervention funds approved for the purchase of strategic grains and the establishment of the Rural Grazing Area Settlements in violation of extent Financial Regulations; two of such misapplications are the use of N2.026,838,775.25 to pay contractors and execute programmes from the funds released for emergency procurement of strategic grains which is unrelated to the purpose of the funds.

“The use of N3,527, 300, 419.06 for the payment of questionable contracts awarded under the 2018 appropriation from the rural grazing area settlement scheme which is not related to the purpose of the funds.

“The above allegations are acts of serious misconduct as provided in PSR 030401 and 030402 and if proven can lead to dismissal from service.

“In view of the foregoing, CWAI hereby strongly recommends the immediate suspension of Dr. Bello. This is to pave way for proper and unbiased investigation into the matter.”

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