Home / News / Local / COVID-19: SERAP writes Adamu, seeks probe of ‘missing billions’ in water ministry, agencies

COVID-19: SERAP writes Adamu, seeks probe of ‘missing billions’ in water ministry, agencies

Abdulrasheed Bawa, EFCC Chairman

Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) has sent a Freedom of Information request to the Minister of Water Resources Engr. Suleiman Adamu, urging him to “clarify the action that his Ministry has taken to address and find the alleged billions missing from the Ministry and its agencies, and if there is relevant admissible evidence of corruption and mismanagement, to refer the allegations to appropriate anti-corruption agencies for investigation and prosecution.”

The organisation is also urging him to “ensure the full recovery of any missing public funds, revealed in the 2017 annual audited report by the Office of the Auditor-General of the Federation.”

In the FoI request dated 27 February 2021 and signed by SERAP deputy director Kolawole Oluwadare, the organization said: “Allegations of corruption and mismanagement in the Ministry and its agencies can cause serious harm to the socially and economically vulnerable. Satisfactorily addressing these allegations and recovering any missing public funds is a critical matter of public health, human rights, transparency and accountability. The COVID-19 crisis makes this action all the more urgent.”

SERAP said: “Knowing how the Ministry has responded to the queries from the Auditor-General, and ensuring a thorough investigation and prosecution of these allegations would end impunity for corruption in the water sector, serve the public interest, as well as help to improve access of Nigerians to clean water and sanitation services.”

According to SERAP, “Millions of Nigerians continue to lack access to an improved water source and access to proper sanitation. Limited availability of water in public hospitals makes it difficult for health professionals and the public to wash their hands – restricting the ability of people to respond to COVID-19.”

The letter, read in part: “According to the Auditor-General’s Annual Report for 2017, Federal Ministry of Water Resources spent ₦343,957,350.60 without any documents. The Auditor-General is concerned that the money may be missing. The Ministry also reportedly spent ₦14,993,950.00 as advance cash to staff to buy store items and for services without due process.”

“The Federal College of Freshwater Fisheries Technology, New Bussa, Niger State also reportedly spent ₦33,652,281.00 to train 170 unemployed youths and women between 10th and 11th November 2016 without due process and without any documents on the names and number of those trained. There was no evidence to justify the spending.”

“The Lower Benue River Basin Development Authority, Makurdi reportedly ‘misapplied’ ₦42,277,285.50 meant for project monitoring and supervision. The Auditor-General is concerned that the money may ‘have been diverted for other purposes.’”

“The National Water Resources Institute, Mando Road, Kaduna reportedly paid ₦84,401,940.74 to a contractor on 4th May 2017, being 10% payment on the construction of a 2-story building for UNESCO. But there was no existing contract between the Institute and the contractor. The Institute also failed to show any documents on how the money was spent.”

“The Nigeria Hydrological Services Agency, Abuja reportedly paid ₦24,800,000.00 to a staff in September 2016 to produce the 2016 annual flood outlook (AFO) by Agency, but without any documents of the spending and evidence of the services performed. The Agency also paid ₦31,439,300.00 to another staff in September 2016 to organise sensitization workshops on 2016 flood prediction/prevention but without any documents. The Agency has also failed to retire the money.”

“We would be grateful if your Ministry would indicate the measures being taken to address the allegations and to implement the proposed recommendations, within 14 days of the receipt and/or publication of this letter.”

“If we have not heard from you by then as to the steps being taken in this direction, the Incorporated Trustees of SERAP shall take all appropriate legal actions to compel your Ministry to implement these recommendations in the public interest, and to promote transparency and accountability in the water sector.”

“SERAP is concerned that these allegations may have hampered the ability of the Ministry and the agencies involved to meet the needs of average citizens, as the missing public funds could have helped to invest in the provision of access to clean water and sanitation services for Nigerians, especially at a time of the COVID-19 pandemic.”

“Effectively addressing the allegations of corruption and mismanagement in the Ministry of Water Resources and its agencies and recovering any missing public funds would be entirely consistent with Section 15(5) of the Nigerian Constitution 1999 [as amended], which imposes responsibility on public institutions and officials to abolish all corrupt practices and abuse of office, and the country’s international obligations.”

“Allegations of corruption and mismanagement in the water sector undermine public confidence in the sector, and obstruct the attainment of commitments made through Sustainable Development Goals, in particular Goal 6 which calls on states to ensure availability and sustainable management of water and sanitation for all.”

“The Cross River Basin Development Authority, Calabar, Cross River State reportedly paid ₦10,387,490.00 for a contract for construction of Link Road between Cross River and Ebonyi State, but without approval and any documents. The Authority also reportedly spent ₦30,616,110.00 for construction of erosion control works at Nguzu but failed to show any documents for the spending.”

“The Gurara Water Management Authority, Utako, Abuja also reportedly failed to remit ₦27,449,153.50 deducted from contractors as Withholding Tax and Value Added Tax, contrary to Financial Regulation 234. The Authority reportedly paid ₦63,075,336.00 to contractors but without any documents.”

“The Lake Chad Research Institute, Maiduguri, Borno State reportedly failed to account for two Toyota Prado Jeeps which were purchased in 2013 and 2014 with registration No. 45KOIFG for one Jeep and none for the other. No reason was given for not registering the second Prado Jeep. The Institute also failed to account for another Toyota Hiace bus with registration No. 45KO3FG.”

“The Hadejia – Jama’are River Basin Development Authority, Kano State reportedly spent ₦204,893,978.09 without any documents. The Auditor-General is concerned that the money may have ‘been mismanaged.’”

“The Nigeria Institute for Oil Palm Research, Benin City, Edo State also reportedly spent ₦210,921,849.66 without any documents. The Institute also spent ₦30,010,963.65 in 2017 without any documents.”

“The National Agricultural Extension and Research Liaison Services, Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria paid ₦33,425,000.00 to a contractor in March 2017 for National Extension Awareness Training and Agricultural Extension Community Research. But there was no evidence that the contract was executed. The Services also paid ₦60,435,515.00 as cash advance to a staff to buy store items without due process.”

“The Nigerian Institute for Oceanography and Marine Research, Victoria Island, Lagos State reportedly spent ₦18,022,931.74 to buy store items in 2017 but without evidence of the items and without any documents of the spending.”

The letter is copied to Professor Bolaji Owasanoye, Chairman Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Commission (ICPC), and Mr Abdulrasheed Bawa, Chairman, Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC).

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