Reps Probe ₦1.5bn Allegedly Diverted By Women Affairs Ministry

The House of Representatives Committee on Women Affairs and Social Development is investigating the alleged diversion of ₦1.5 billion, which was intended for the payment of contractors, by principal officers of the Ministry of Women Affairs.

During an interactive session with the committee on Thursday, the ministry’s Director of Finance, Aloy Ifeakandu, stated that he had followed official directives from his superiors and that the records were available to support this claim. This session was prompted by a petition from the ministry’s contractors, who complained to the House of Representatives about not being paid for contracts they had executed, which amounted to billions of naira.

The chairman of the committee, Kafilat Ogbara, pointed out that the ministry had initiated new contracts that were not included in the 2023 budget. Additionally, she mentioned that the ministry diverted ₦1.5 billion meant for old contractors and, despite owing contractors, awarded new contracts in 15 states that were also not captured in the 2023 appropriation.

“Money for contractors has not been paid and money has been diverted, so how do you pay these contractors,” she asked.

She said there is an ongoing probe of the ministry by the Independent Corrupt Practices Commission (ICPC) on overhead release of November/December 2023, to the tune of ₦1.5bn.

The petitioners, according to Ogbara, also alleged that the ministry purchased seven tricycles for a military Barack in Abuja, an allegation a procurement officer of the ministry denied.

Continuing, the committee noted that the ministry signed a memorandum of understanding MoU with the American University of Nigeria, Yola for the payment of Chibok girls’ school fees for seven years.

Responding to some of the allegations, the Permanent Secretary of the ministry, Ambassador Gabriel Aduda, who exonerated himself, explained that in “2023 we had a total budget of ₦13.6bn. The total release was ₦3.4bn, translating to 25 per cent, budget utilisation ₦3.4bn, while unreleased balance stood at N10.2bn”.

However, the DFA, said “I resumed at the ministry in September 2023, I wouldn’t know what happened before I came.

“The individual contractors have their files, it can be traced, as at the time I took over, there was no balance in the vote,” he said.

Amidst the controversy, correspondence from the office of the Accountant General of the federation revealed that the said ₦1.5 bn has been released to the ministry.

“Since the minister came on board, no payment has been made, the permanent secretary said the minister ordered him not to pay any contractor,” the petitioners said.

Meanwhile, the committee has summoned the Minister of Women Affairs and Social Development, Uju Kennedy-Ohaneye, to appear before it on Tuesday.

“We are giving till Tuesday for the ministry to bring all documents to come and defend where the N1.5bn disappeared to,” the committee chair said.

The committee also ordered the ministry to stop all contract processes in 2024, “until we resolve this matter”.

Additionally, the committee also sought to see the special account for the Chibok girls and the MoU.

“We want to see the account and documents,” Ogbara added