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Alleged N206bn budget padding: Arrest Finance Minister now – HURIWA tasks EFCC

Human Rights Writers Association of Nigeria (HURIWA), on Monday, tasked the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission to arrest or invite for interrogation the Minister of Finance, Budget and National Planning, Mrs Zainab Ahmed over the alleged insertion of N206,242,395,000 into the 2023 budget of the Ministry of Humanitarian Affairs and Disaster Management.

HURIWA has also cautioned the anti-graft body to steer off the naming of serving government officials as ambassadors of EFCC since the anti-corruption body is not a local chief or emir that awards traditional titles but is a very serious agency of government set up to wage a real war against the many embedded economic saboteurs working within the government circles who have destroyed Nigeria’s economy.

HURIWA said the recent announcement purporting to name the Executive Vice Chairman of the National Communications Commission, Professor Umar Garba Danbatta as an Ambassador of the EFCC, is absolutely irregular and inappropriate since that would mean that the holder becomes a sacred cow and therefore the financial affairs of that agency under his control may never come under any kind of scrutiny should any allegations of misconduct arise in the near future.

The Rights body asked the EFCC to allow the office of the Secretary to the Government of the Federation with its pastime of giving awards to government officials including state governors that owe teachers a backlog of salaries.

HURIWA prayed the EFCC to respect itself because Nigerians see it as such an institution that people look up to in terms of waging anti-graft war come rain or shine, therefore, awarding ‘chieftaincy titles of the so-called ambassadors of EFCC, belittles the essence of the anti-graft commission.”

HURIWA’s National Coordinator, Comrade Emmanuel Onwubiko, in a statement, rejected the explanation of the finance ministry that the bogus amount was wrongly captured in the budget estimates submitted to the National Assembly just as it insists that those in charge must be arrested to give a proper statement under oaths.

The Rights group said the President Muhammadu Buhari administration is encouraging corruption, contrary to what is considered ‘weird propaganda’ in some quarters that it is fighting graft.

Recall that the humanitarian affairs minister, Sadiya Farouq, told the National Assembly that N206,242,395,000 found its way into its budget without its knowledge.

But, the Special Adviser to the finance minister on Media and Communications, Yunusa Tanko Abdullahi, in a statement said the funds in question were wrongly captured in the 2023 Appropriation Bill for the humanitarian affairs ministry.

The Senate similarly uncovered the forgery of signatures of participants in payment of over N208 million in the zonal skill acquisition organized by the Ministry of Labour led by Chris Ngige.

Commenting, HURIWA’s Onwubiko said, “Corruption in President Muhammadu Buhari’s cabinet is mind-boggling and the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission and the Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Commission are overlooking these spectacular crimes.

“This, sadly, is the greatest cause of insecurity because a corrupt government is even a threat to national security.

“Budget padding is not alien to Nigerian ministries, departments and agencies. Just in September, the ICPC chairman, Bolaji Owasanoye disclosed that the N13.59 trillion 2021 budget was padded by MDAs with duplicated projects worth N300bn. He also said project duplication worth N100bn were also inserted into the N17.12trn 2022 budget by some MDAs.

“The explanation or defence of the finance ministry is lame and unacceptable. Nigerians won’t sit down and watch these shenanigans under the APC-controlled government whose officials have exhibited grand larceny and corruption like the suspended Accountant-General of the Federation, Ahmed Idris in EFCC net for usurping hundreds of billions of naira and who reportedly gave EFCC a refund of 900,000 USD in cash as part of the alleged siphoned public fund.

“HURIWA demands actions by way of arrests, prosecution of officials who padded the budget for they are economic saboteurs. Anything short of this is aiding and abetting corruption. If the EFCC overlooks these crimes, then in the fullness of time, the persons responsible will be apprehended to face justice whenever a God-fearing administration takes office since such heinous crimes are not status barred.”

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