The Senate ad hoc Committee on Mounting Humanitarian Crisis in the NorthEast, headed by Senator Shehu Sani, has uncovered a N2.5 billion fraud allegedly perpetrated by some operators of the Presidential Initiative on the North-East (PINE).The committee, which hosted a public hearing on Tuesday, in Abuja, was told how the presidential committee, which was saddled with the responsibility of reconstructing and rehabilitating communities destroyed by Boko Haram insurgents, could not account for a sum of N2.5 billion.
Secretary of PINE, Alhaji Umar Musa Gulani, had, in his submission before the committee, said it spent a sum of N203 million to clear taipa grass in Yobe State. He also claimed that the committee spent another sum of N253 million to tackle species of the plant in river banks across the states, as well as a sum of N422.5 million to provide temporary shelter to small families in the state. But the Commissioner for Information in Yobe State, Alhaji Mohammed Lamin, while making his submission before the Senate committee, denied any knowledge of the expenses, adding that there was no evidence of the said projects in the state.
The commissioner also disputed the claims that PINE spent millions to renovate schools destroyed by Boko Haram insurgents in Yobe. “No Taipa grass was cleared in the state by any Federal Government’s agency,” he insisted.
The commissioner also countered the information by the PINE secretary that species around river banks were cleared with a sum of N253 million, adding also that the state did not have evidence of the claim that PINE spent a sum of N422.5 million to provide temporary shelter for families in the state. The commissioner said only three schoolshad, so far, been renovated.
The Senate committee, thereafter, came down hard on the committee while it ordered its secretary to forward to it, within a week, all documents, including photographs of the projects it claimed to have executed.The committee wondered why only N2 million was spent by the agency to feed the IDPs, while it donated N50 million to a non-governmental organisation (NGO).
The former governor of Abia State, who is a member of the committee, Senator Theodore Orji, said “the affected states said they were not aware of all the contracts executed by PINE, you people just decided to make money and that is why you decided to donate N50 million for a conference organised by an NGO. ”Senator Ben Murray Bruce, who also contributed, told the committee that women IDPs in the centres were crying for provision of sanitary pads during a recent visit.