Probe of N18.9bn alleged agriculture related fraud: NASS must be thorough & uncompromising


Ceaselessly in Nigeria, cases of corruption scandal have continued to take toll in the Country. It now appears that one newer scandals would come on board each season to sack and shelve aside the roving rounds of one prevailing scandal to take the toll of recognition. The dimension has made the reports of corruption, most emphatically from the public sector domain, a tangling but common saga in the ears of Nigerians.

It was disclosed the House of Representatives Public Account Committee (PAC) suspecting fraudulent devices over an attraction of N18.9bn worth of contract penned as money spent for bushing clearing, land preparation, rehabilitation of soil plant lab and others by the Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development during the COVID-19 lockdown. Following the ambiguity, the Committee has launched a probe to  ascertain the true situation as it concerns the suspicious records. The Chairman of the Committee, Hon. Wole Oke speaking on the subject on Tuesday, 16th August, 2022 in Abuja, said the Committee would find the location of the projects and their impacts on the Country. He said that the Ministry and the companies had been invited to appear, but unfortunately failed to honour the invitation as of Tuesday at plenary.  According to him, the companies were to “appear before the committee on investigation of contracts awarded by the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development of roads, bush clearing, land preparation and rehabilitation of soil and plant laboratories video utilisation of funds from Service Wide vote between 2013 and 2021 totalling N18,924,004,359.38. During the lockdown of the country as a result of COVID 19, some companies took contract worth about N18 billion for bush clearing from the Federal Ministry of Agriculture for land preparation, rehabilitation of soil plant lab and others. We cannot shave their head in their absence. So, we have invited them to come and give us their own side by responding to the issues and show us the places they are supposed to have cleared. They have to take us to the land they cleared. We have invited Ministry of Agriculture and they have made submission. But some of our members whose constituencies these projects were supposed to be domiciled doubted the existence of these projects and for fair hearing, we have invited the companies that got the contract for them to come and tell this committee where and when the jobs were executed. We will wait till the end of hearing today to see if they will appear. If they are not here, we will have to do the needful to get them to come.”

To further give the force of accountability the thrust of firmness, it is pertinent for the Lawmakers, particularly the Committe members to be thorough in the probe, discharging their constitutional duties without any iota of compromise. This is important to uphold the sanctity of the parliament which houses such duty of oversight function for checks and balances to take its full expression as demanded in a democratic system which Nigeria subscribe to.

The scourge of corruption has bitten too hard on the Country, that living conditions are becoming unbearable for many, all due to the overwhelming grip of misappropriation and diversion of funds meant for developmental projects. The sordid culture which has characterised the public sector orientation, has not only left the Country with unsavoury infrastructure gaps, but has also deprived and denied citizens of welfare provisions, social benefits and amenities that readily should be at their reach as dividends of democracy.

The necessity to change the narratives is now alarming, particularly at a time when the tolerance of the masses is apparently drawing beyond the elastic limit. The explosion which may arise as resistance against non departure from the prevailing wicked order of self aggrandizement by public officers against the detriment of the greatest number, may cause irredeemable losses than what it would take to call sanity into order.

The National Assembly must step up firm attention to tracking and bringing on board for probe more of ridiculous cases enmeshed with reflections of financial misappropriation, diversion  and laundering, among other indications of financial imbalance, giving close resemblance to instances of subterfuge to cheat on the nation through clever means. Ensuring thorough investigations into the particular aforementioned case is pertinent, while displaying similar efforts to unravel more of such apparent foul play, with firm thoroughness. This is important not only to make known escapades of corrupt public officers, but also bring them to book, towards sanitising the system.