By Musa Sunusi Ahmad
A Statement By The Pro-Democracy And Leading Civil Rights Advocacy Group-: HUMAN RIGHTS WRITERS ASSOCIATION OF NIGERIA (HURIWA) On The alleged Widespread Corruption in The National Biotechnology Development Agency (NABDA), The Refusal of The Accountant General of The Federation’s Refusal To Reply The FREEDOM OF INFORMATION REQUEST Seeking for the Comprehensive Update on the Huge Amount of Public Fund Purportedly Diverted to Private Accounts, Which Shows He is Hiding Something and HURIWA ALSO Reinforces The Earlier Allegation of Corruption in The Humanitarian Affairs And Disaster Management As Justified By The Recent ICPC’s Revelation.
As one of the foremost civil rights advocacy groups in the country, which has consistently campaigned against all forms and manifestations of public and private economic and associated corrupt practices within the last 14 years, we have been informed from credible sources about the disturbing cases of alleged corruption in the National Biotechnology Development Agency.
Specially, our office has consistently been bombarded with petitions on allegations of misapplication of the institutional funds of the Agency in which the acting Director General/CEO; Mr. Alex Akpa is mentioned and we have tried to vigorously crusade against such tendencies because of the adverse consequences that such threat could have in the development of Bio-technological sciences in Nigeria.
Just few weeks ago, we declared as deplorable, the state of affairs with the management of this badly administered institution under the supervision of the Federal Ministry of Science and Technology not willing to meet the payment obligations to cleaners and security staff working for the agency despite the continuous servicing by the Federal government of the budget lines meant to be used to pay the wage bills of this category of low level but critical staff.
Again, we gathered from a written petition wherein many of the staff had alleged that all the acting DG does is to allegedly collect from 30 to 70% of project money and allegedly use it as bribe to ensure he is confirmed as DG/CEO. “He allegedly tells a lot of lies on national TV as achievements of NABDA when in essence nothing is going on,” the petition sent to us had alleged. The Acting Director General of NABDA has been approached by us for his position but he accused his rivals trying to push him out of his acting job as those fabrucating the cacophony of ALLEGATIONS of sleaze and corruption.
Also, the Agency’s staff alleged that NABDA Biotech centres that collect money every year has no structure there and no staff on ground, just bushes. Consequently, when we tried on many occasions to reach out to the acting DG with these plethora of complaints, the Acting Director General attacked us on the phone and accused us of harassment only because we approached him to demand why the staff have low morale and the cleaners and security are owed accumulated wages despite the fact that the 2018 budget lines with the file number as 0228001001; and 2019 Appropriation law with number 0228001001 and 2020 Appropriation with same code show that CLEANERS AND SECURITY BUDGETS were serviced.
Furthermore, pursuant to sections 1 and 2 of the Freedom of Information (FOI) ACT of 2011, laws of the federation of Nigeria, we wrote to the Accountant General of the Federation; Mr. Ahmed Idris Fcna requesting to get relevant confirmation and update on a correspondence he authored with file number FD/AGF/ADC/203/2020/1/, said to have emanated from his office dated 3rd September 2020 and received on the same date by the office of the director general of the National Biotechnology Development Agency titled: RE:TAKE-OFF GRANT 2018 CAPITAL ALLOCATION TO FOUR(4) NEWLY ESTABLISHED CENTRES.
We gathered from a copy of the letter, which was made available to us that the Accountant General had demanded the following actions regarding suspected acts of corruption as it relates to huge public fund as follows:
1. I write to refer to the above captioned subject released vide AIE no: CMD/CAP/026/2018 dated 27, June, 2019 in the sum of 400,000,000.00 (Four Hundred Million Naira Only) meant for the newly established Centres. (Appendix l).
2. The Agency subsequently requested for the transfer of the amount into the Sub-Accounts of The respective Centres. While effecting the transfer vide our mandate dated 24 August, 2020, the payment could not be honoured due to insufficient balance in the account. (Appendix II).
3. Further investigations revealed that the Funds were transferred into a Company account with Money Deposit Bank against the purpose the fund was meant for.
4. In view of the foregoing, you are requested to refund the money meant for the Take-Off Grant of the Four Centres to the designated accounts.
5. You are’ further requested to explain the rationale behind moving Public Funds to a Private Company account with Zenith Bank PLC in total disregard to TSA Policy of the Federal Government.
6. The Agency is obliged to consider this letter as notice of compliance within 7 days, failure of which appropriate action would be taken including involving relevant investigative agencies.”
Until the time of this statement, the Office of the Accountant General is yet to respond to our letter seeking for clarifications on behalf of millions of Nigerians and pursuant to relevant sections and provisions of the FOI Act to know the status of the said huge amount of public fund purportedly diverted to private accounts. The last time we asked about the response a top official in the office of the Accountant General of the Federation said her boss travelled to host the marriage ceremony for his Son. Two weeks down the line, the FOI request is yet to be responded to which has made our Trustees to decide that we are giving the Accountant General of the Federation 48 hours to respond or we do one of these two actions- institute a legal action to compel compliance or we send a petition to President Muhammadu Buhari to demand that Nigerians are told why CORRUPTION IS TOLERATED RIGHT UNDER HIS NOSE. WE WILL THEREAFTER WAIT FOR ANOTHER ONE WEEK FOR REMEDIAL ACTION OR WE SEND A LETTER TO THE AFRICAN UNION TO DEMAND CANCELLATION OF THE AWARD OF ANTI CORRUPTION CHAMPUON OF AU CONFERRED ON THE NIGERIAN PRESIDENT.
OUR STAND AND WAY FORWARD:
From the issues raised above, it cannot be gainsaid nor overemphasized that the National Biotechnology Development Agency stinks of wide spread corruption and the Accountant General of the Federation is aware but seems to be aiding and abetting it, evident from his purported letter to the acting DG and his refusal to reply to our FOI showing either that he is hiding something and this offends the FOI Act and the anti-graft war.
We are worried that these allegations of misapplication of the institutional funds of NABDA and the refusal of the Accountant General to reply to our FOI would hinder the practical provision of the practical frameworks for the advancement of biotechnology in Nigeria, which will harm the Country’s vision of joining the rest of the World to achieve remarkable success in the fields of science and technology.
There is the urgent need then for the agency to be compelled by President Muhammadu Buhari to wake up from the doldrums of mismanagement and begin to discharge her statutory functions and mandates
Similarly, when in July this year, we issued a statement exposing the alleged widespread corruption in the Ministry of Humanitarian Affairs, Disaster Management and Social Investments, especially on the implementation of the so-called social investment programme and the school feeding programme, describing it as the best known cesspool of corruption and abuse of office, we received series of attacks; but the Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Commission (ICPC) has recently exposed same heist.
The Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Commission (ICPC), yesterday (Monday) disclosed that it uncovered the sum of N2.67 billion payment made to some federal colleges for school feeding during lockdown when children are not in school, ended up in personal accounts.
It would be recalled that in our statement on the corruption in that Ministry, we had demanded the Honorable Minister of Humanitarian Affairs; Sadiya Umar Farouq to take up the challenge for a public debate on the administration of school feeding programme especially the sessions that happened whilst schools were on lockdown, but up till today we have not gotten any reply. We use the opportunity to therefore ask that the Accountant General of the Federation and the Humanitarian Affairs minister to fix a date for a public debate on the extensive corruptions and economic crimes happening right within the CURRENT FEDERAL GOVERNMENT OF PRESIDENT MUHAMMADU BUHARI OF WHICH THE ACCOUNTANT GENERAL OF THE FEDERATION OUGHT TO PROVUDE THE PRAGMATIC FRAMEWORKS FOR MAKING PUBLIC PROCUREMENT AND FUNANCIAL MANAGEMENTOF PUBLIC FUND ACCOUNTABLE AND TRANSPARENT.
The ICPC’s revelation justifies and reinforces our earlier allegation of corruption in Humanitarian Affairs and Disaster management ministry. Hence we are by this statement, for the umpteenth time challenging the Minister together with the Accountant General of the Federation to a public debate with us in Abuja on these allegations.