IDPs: Buhari’s panel spends N6bn on foodstuffs refreshment, others

Punch Newspapers / Abdulfatai Ayobami Ibrahim / 1 hour ago

John Ameh, Abuja

Members of the House of Representatives are alarmed over what they call the “worrisome spending plans” of the Presidential Committee on North-East Initiative, which had a budget of N45bn in 2017.

Between December 2016 and May 2017 alone, the committee spent a whopping N6.1bn on “foodstuffs and catering materials,” “drugs and medical supplies,” “medical services consulting,” “refreshment and meals” and “purchasing of bulling materials.”

The PCNI, a temporary intervention measure by the Federal Government, is to provide relief services to Internally Displaced Persons in the North-East.

The IDPs are mainly the victims of Boko Haram insurgency in the North-East and are scattered in various camps in Borno, Adamawa, Yobe , Gombe and Bauchi states.

Budget documents The PUNCH obtained in Abuja on Thursday, showed that the committee got approval to spend another N21bn in 2017 on largely the same services and got a retention of another N45bn in the 2018 budget now before the National Assembly.

The documents, which were prepared by the PCNI, indicated that it had already taken N5bn out of the 2017 provisions.

The 2017 budget is still running till May 2018, with the implication that the entire N45bn would have been received before May.

For instance, while foodstuffs incurred N2bn expenditure in 2016, the figure for 2017 was N7.1bn, “non-food items” took N2.1bn, “agricultural livelihood support programme” cost N2.6bn, while an item tagged as the “North-East Medical Staff Attraction/Retention Initiative,” had a budget of N1bn.

From N88m in 2016, the documents indicated that “Staff Allowances and Salaries” climbed to N192m in 2017.

The documents also showed that the PCNI paid N23m in 2016 for the “maintenance of office furniture” and a separate N34m for “other maintenance services.”

It also paid out N1bn for the “construction of the Government Girls Secondary School, Chibok,” N6.9m for “security services” and another N15.8m on “welfare packages.”

The packages were not defined and it was not clear whether they were meant for the 21 members of the committee, which is chaired by Gen. Theophilus Danjuma (retd.).

Other members include Alhaji Tijjani Tumsah (Vice-Chairman); Senator Ali Ndume; a member of the House of Representatives, Buba Yakubu; Minister of State, Budget and National Planning, Zainab Ahmed; Jafar Haliru; Alhaji Ibrahim Hassan; Director General, National Orientation Agency, Dr. Garba Abari; Prof. Hauwa Biu; and one representative each from Borno, Adamawa, Yobe, Gombe, Bauchi and Taraba states.

The committee fully drew funds for the following sub-heads in 2017, “Rapid Health Deployment,” N871.9m; “Targeted Psychological Support Trauma,” N487.3m; and “Repatriation of Refugees,” N470m.

Out of the N98.6m approved for “PCNI committee members’ sitting and travel allowances,” the committee had drawn N48m as of December.

The budget documents also contained N192m for “staff allowances, salaries and wages” as different from another N180m for “staff allowances, salaries and wages for six North-East states.”

In addition, “Mobilisation of Participant Partners/Stakeholders” got N266.9m, while another N273.4m went to “PCNI Field Verification and Validation Assessment Exercises.”

Similarly, N196m was earmarked for “Project Monitoring, “ while another sub-head, “Programmes Tracking and Supervision,” got N60m.

Findings by The PUNCH on Thursday showed that the PCNI officials would come to the National Assembly next week to defend the expenditure and proceed to lay the details of the 2018 proposals as well before lawmakers.

It was learnt that members were worried over a trend in the spending pattern, “which appears to be more focused on services that do not have a direct bearing on the welfare of the IDPs.”

At the House of Representatives, the officials are expected to appear before the Committee on IDPs, which is headed by a former National President of the Nigeria Union of Journalists, Mr. Sani Zorro.

When The PUNCH sought the reactions of the Chairman, House Committee on Media and Public Affairs, Mr. Abdulrazak Namdas, he said all committees had been instructed to scrutinise the details of the expenditure and proposals of all Ministries, Departments and Agencies of government to ensure accountability.

Namdas disclosed that already, several agencies had been queried over certain proposals and were asked to produce additional documents to back up their expenditure.

“We have raised queries and we will continue to demand the details of the budget.

“But, in the case of the PCNI, I have not seen their proposals or what they spent in 2017,” he added.

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