The Presidential Committee set up to rebuild a war-torn North East region of Nigeria has been enmeshed in corruption
PINE was set up by President Muhammadu Buhari to rebuild the war ravaged North East, after all the havoc terrorist sect Boko Haram has wreaked in the region.
During a special hearing conducted by the Senate ad-hoc committee on the north-east humanitarian crisis on Thursday, lawmakers were able to establish that PINE hasn't been able to account for N2.5B--being part of funds released by the federal government for its capital projects.
According to a Premium Times' account of events, on one occasion, PINE boss, Umar Gulani, claimed that the agency spent N203M to weed out taipa grass in Yobe State.
However, the Yobe State Commissioner for Information, Mohammed Lamin, immediately punctured holes in his claims.
According to Lamin: “no taipa grass was cleared in the state by any federal government agency in Yobe State".
Lamin also took issue with Gulani's claims that PINE spent N253 million on the clearing of invasive plants species around river banks in the state; and another N422.5 million to provide temporary shelter (tents) to displaced families in the state.
PINE also claimed that it had spent millions of Naira renovating 18 schools destroyed by Boko Haram in the North East.
Yet again, the Yobe State commissioner disputed those claims, calling them outright lies.
“The affected states said they were not aware of all the contracts executed by PINE; you people just decided to make money and that is why you decided to donate N50M for a conference organised by an NGO,” said a member of the committee, Senator Theordore Orji (PDP, Abia), according to Premium Times.
Senator Shehu Sani (APC, Kaduna) thereafter demanded photographic evidence and documents of contracts executed, from the PINE boss.
None has been forthcoming.
Senator Ben Bruce (PDP, Bayelsa), narrated how, during the Senate committee's visit to an IDP (Internally Displaced Persons) camp in the North East, several women cried out for sanitary pads.
According to Bruce, sanitary pads wouldn't be an issue in IDP camps if the N2.5B given to PINE out of the budgeted N5B, was well utilised.
PINE appears to be cornering huge sums of money meant to provide succour to persons who have been handed a raw deal by terrorists.
Like most government agencies, PINE's sole agenda seems to be to benefit from the misfortunes of vulnerable persons.
We are really sick in this country. Where else do privileged persons steal from the poor?
Buhari was supposed to be the guy who finally saves us from heartless corruption.
If this level of corruption can still be perpetrated in a government agency on his watch, our redemption may still be afar off.
On this evidence, we can all go home now.
STOP PRESS: The Presidential Committee on the North East Initiative (PCNI) was inaugurated by President Muhammadu Buhari on the 26th of October, 2016.
PCNI is different from the defunct Presidential Initiative for the North East (PINE) inaugurated by erstwhile President Goodluck Jonathan.
The Senate Adhoc committee has been probing PINE and not PCNI, as stated in this opinion piece. The clarification came from Alkasim Abdulkadir