Huriwa To Buhari-: Permanent Secretary Caught In N42 Billion Alleged Scam Should Be In Kirikiri:

Accuses Efcc Of Playing Hide-and-seek With Ex-sgf Babachir Lawal's Prosecution:
By Human Rights Writers Association Of Nigeria (HURIWA)m
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Alhaji Mohammed Umar Bello
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The Prominent Civil Rights Advocacy group-: HUMAN RIGHTS WRITERS ASSOCIATION OF NIGERIA (HURIWA) has accused President Muhammadu Buhari of treating corruption cases involving some favoured Moslem and non-Moslem Northerners with kid gloves even when similar cases involving mostly Christians and Southerners are handled decisively and fanatically by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission.

Citing the reported case of the Permanent secretary in the Federal Ministry of Science and technology Alhaji Mohammed Umar Bello accused of large scale misapplication of over N10 billion whilst he served as Accounting officer of the Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development, and for allegedly accumulating over N42 billion contractual obligations, the Rights group said it was immoral and illegal that rather than asked the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) to investigate, arrest and prosecute him for the alleged mismanagement of these humonguous sums of public fund the President rather chose the carrots- and- stick or rather outright administrative soft landing procedure of issuing him query. HURIWA lamented that several of such high profile allegations of misuse of public funds including the financial scandal allegedly linked to the erstwhile Director General of the National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA) have been swept under the carpet only because the accused public officials are linked to the corridors of power.

HURIWA said: " It is in the public domain that the serving permanent Secretary in the Federal Ministry of Science whilst he was in the Federal Ministry of Science and technology was involved in many alleged contracts scam including the purported purchase of a carcass of an uncompleted building for a whooping N7 billion."

The Prominent Civil Rights Advocacy group HUMAN RIGHTS WRITERS ASSOCIATION OF NIGERIA (HURIWA) expressed displeasure that persons said to have committed less offences are harassed, jailed and publicly humiliated by the Federal government only because they are not from the 'right tribe or religion.'

HURIWA recalled that the Head of the Civil Service of the Federation, Dr Folasade Yemi-Esan, made the allegations in a leaked query she issued to the Bello on May 11, 2020.

The query with reference number HCSF/PSO/AOD/P.030/5B with the following sub-title-: “Allegations of acts of serious misconduct in your former post of Permanent Secretary in the Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development: Preliminary letter/query".

"HURIWA thinks that rather than asked the Head of Service to issue a secret query on the order of the President Muhammadu Buhari, who she said had been briefed about Bello’s conducts, the EFCC is in the better position to pick him up, quiz, prosecute and jail him but we think this steps are deliberate so the man can quietly be eased out without prosecution or be granted Presidential pardon once the people are no longer talking about it as is the case with a plethora of other mind boggling crimes committed by favoured public officials from the right tribe and religion under this administration.

"We learnt that quoting from the civil service rules, PSR 030401 and 030402, the head of civil service of the Federation Mrs. Yemi-Esan described the allegations against the permanent secretary as acts of serious misconduct which can lead to dismissal if proven"., HURIWA stressed.

HURIWA recalled that
“Specifically, 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 N48.429,543,895.722..

“(b) under your leadership as the accounting officer, the ministry utilised 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.

HURIWA recalled that the Permanent was indicted thus: “(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".

The Permanent secretary was indicted as follows: (f) 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;

“(e) and in April, 2019, you gave out the seven rigs procured at over NI .3 billion 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.

HURIWA recalled that the Permanent was accused as follows: “(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:

“i. 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.

“ii. the use of N3,527, 300, 419..06 for the payment of questionable contracts awarded under the 2018 appropriation from the rural grazing".

HURIWA however stated that this is a deliberate time wasting gambit by the administration so as to eventually grant him soft landing given that he is from the Core Moslem North who seem to be enjoying immunity from effective and efficient anti-graft investigations and prosecutions.

HURIWA in a related development frown against the deliberate undermining of the prosecution of the disgraced Secretary to the Government of the Federation under the current administration Mr. Babachir Lawan before the Abuja High court over N500 million alleged contract scam going by the absence without cogent and verifiable reasons of the EFCC's Witnesses which continues to make the matter footdrag indefinitely.

HURIWA said: " Recall that the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) counsel in the ongoing trial of a former Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF), Babachir Lawal, in an FCT High Court on Tuesday, expressed frustration over attitude of witnesses from the Office of the SGF. Mr Lawal is facing trial alongside six others in an alleged N544.1 million grass-cutting scandal.

He was arraigned alongside, his brother, Hamidu Lawal, who is a director of Rholavision Engineering Limited.

Also, an employee of the company, Sulaiman Abubakar and the Managing Director of Josmon Technologies Limited, Apeh John Monday, are being prosecuted by EFCC."

“ HURIWA is shocked that over 80 per cent of the witnesses the EFCC presented in court are all coming from office of the Secretary to the Government of the Federation. Yet the EFCC which is a federal government and publicly funded institution is complaining that the witnesses who are employees of the Federal Government are frustrating the prosecution of a matter involving such a high profile individual most likely because he is seen as a sacred cow.

EFCC told the court that the case was adjourned until February 19 at the instance of the witness and the lawyer of EFCC timidly admitted that he called a key witness last week but he said he was in his village. He called him a day before the hearing in the presence of the IPO and he said he was in Bauchi.Then the Iinvestigating Police Officer told him that he (IPO) had a tracker which showed that he (witness) was in Abuja".

HURIWA thinks this is a gambit by the anti graft body to undermine the prosecution in order to grant soft landing to the former powerful Scribe of the Federal Government who is still very influential in the Abuja seat of power. "EFCC had better been told to stop playing on the intelligence of Nigerians and stop the hide and seek game over this sensitive matter which they want the public outrage to die down completely then the court would be forced to strike it out for lack of diligent prosecution."