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EXPOSED: How Former Ambassador spent N1m for haircut

Ambassador
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…as Nigeria’s Foreign Missions Engage In Extra-budgetary Spending

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By Gloria Ikibah

The House of Representatives Committee on Public Accounts has uncovered via the AuGF audited reports how a former Ambassador spent N1million on haircut.

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Naijablitznews.com reports this was discovered as PAC commenced investigations into how Nigeria’s foreign mission engage in extra budgetary spending and refused to remit internally generated revenue into government coffers as provided for in the nation’s extant laws, despite cries from the embassies of paucity of funds.

The report of how some embassies spent over N13billion not budgeted for is contained in the report of the Auditor General for the Federation on the financial and other activities of the foreign missions and the Federal Ministry of Foreign Affair between 2010 and 2019 which the Public Accounts Committee is currently looking into.

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However, the Auditor General said in the report that efforts to audit the accounts of some of the missions were rebuffed by staff of such embassies acting on the directive of the Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Foreign Affair who directed them not to allow staff of the Auditor General access to their books.

In the over 450 paged document seen by our Reporter, the Auditor General raised alarm over the habit of the foreign missions to engage in extra budgetary expenses and refusal to remit generated revenue into the Consolidated Revenue Fund of the Federation, while also engaging in activities that has negative impacts on the nation’ finances.

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The Auditor General said “the practice where Nigerian Missions over-expended their allocations with impunity should be frowned at. It should be noted that this action is a contravention of financial regulation which stipulates that no expenditure on any sub-head of the Recurrent Estimates in excess of the provision in the approved estimates or supplementary estimates may be authorized by any officer controlling a vote without the prior approval of the National Assembly.

“I am deeply worried at the non-adherence to budgetary provisions by most missions. It is important to note that this act contravenes the provision of extant regulations which stipulates that no expenditure on any sub-head of the Recurrent Estimates in excess of the provision in the approved estimates or supplementary estimates may be authorized by any officer controlling a vote without the prior approval of the National Assembly. It should also be noted that this practice makes nonsense of the Appropriation.

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“I have observed that most of the Nigerian Missions have formed the habit of over-expending their allocations with impunity. This practice makes nonsense the essence of appropriation and should be frowned at.

“I have noted with dismay that most Nigerian Missions incur expenses on most of their expenditure sub-heads in excess of the provision in the approved estimates. It should be noted that this contravenes the provisions of Financial Regulation 313 (2009 Edition) which stipulates that no expenditure on any sub-head of the Recurrent estimates in excess of the provision in the approved estimates or supplementary estimates may be authorized by any officer controlling a vote without approval of the National Assembly.”

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The report said that while the landed properties of the Nigeria Embassy in Brassila have been left in a dilapidated position without any effort to renovate them, the Embassy has been spending a staggering amount of USD50,247.89 (N7,500,000.00) annually on rent for 2 of its staff, adding that the USD50,247.80 spent on rent for 3 years could be utilized to renovate the landed properties which are deteriorating and a lot of savings made for Government.

It also said that the embassy exchanged six old vehicles whose prices was not made available for two new one purchased at a total cost of USD95,211.00 (N11,754,444.44), while an additional amount of USD17,642.08 (N2,375,224.28) was expended on shipment, Insurance and clearing of these new vehicles even when there was no budgetary provision for the purchase.

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The report said that in 2010, the then Nigerian Ambassador to Poland claimed over N9.777 million annually for non existing domestic staff, saying that eveb though the Ambassador’s letter of engagement provides for the engagement of a cook/steward, House maid and Gardener who should be engaged locally at the post and enrolled on the payroll of the Mission, such staff were never employed.

The AuGF said that in 2011, the Nigeria Ambassador to France spent over N1.75 million from government coffers on entertainment of Guests without any record of he guests, Haircut, Manicure, Hair colouring and cost of ticket to Nigeria for consultation without any evidence of any official invitation/approval for the journey, describing them as very private expenses that should not have been borne by public funds.

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The report said that acting on a circular from the Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, several Nigeria Missions denied Audit staff from the office of the Auditor General were denied access to financial records, saying “the circular prohibits the staff of the Office of the Auditor-General for the Federation from scrutinizing the books of the dedicated accounts”, in contravention of extant laws in the country.

In the United States of America, the report said “at the Embassy of Nigeria, Washington D.C. USA, properties owned by the Federal Government of Nigeria were sold and the proceeds of the sales used to open a “Property Account”.

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A scrutiny of the Bank Statements of the Main Account revealed that several transfers of funds amounting to USD17,477,677.54 (N2,619,949,997.79) were made at different times between 28th August, 2009 and 26th April, 2012 from the “Property Account” to the Main Account.

Despite these huge transfers, the main account had only a meagre balance of the sum of USD769.49 (N115,348.58) as at 16th May, 2012.

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“A Tax refund of USD1,550,000.00 which was inadvertently deducted from the sale of the Embassy’s property situated at 6705 Connecticut Avenue, Cherg Cheses, Maryland, had been withheld by the Solicitors on the sales since 2007.

In a letter dated 12th December, 2007, the Solicitors informed the Embassy of the receipt of a cheque in the sum of USD1,550,000.00 being the refund and promised “disbursing the check (sic) to the Embassy of Nigeria promptly upon its clearance by 22nd December, 2007”.

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However, this was not done. Eight (8) months after the due date of the clearance of the cheque, the Embassy sent a reminder to the Solicitors requesting for immediate disbursement of the sum of USD1,550,000.00 plus interest accrued thereon, to the Embassy”.

It was reported that officials of the Nigeria Embassy in Paris were printing official receipts booklets for the collection of Government Revenue privately, contrary to Financial Regulations which stipulate that “under no circumstances shall temporary or privately printed receipts be utilized for the collection of government revenue”, adding that the practice encourages fraudulent activities as it makes it difficult to track the receipts issued out and thus difficult to determine the actual revenue generated.

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At the Embassy in the United Arab Emirate, the AuGF said, a total sum of US$100,000.00 (N15,385,000.00) was remitted as take-off grant to Oil and Gas Free Zone Authority (OGFZA) Rito Office, to open and operate an investment office in Abu Dhabi, UAE, even when there was no policy instrument to support the remittance.

It said “total sum of US$84,000.00 (N12,923,076.92) was paid from this money to an officer representing OGFZA, Rito Office vide payment voucher No. 001 dated 6/6/14 without any expenditure returns or documents to support the disbursement.

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Therefore, it is difficult to accept this expenditure as a proper charge against public funds.

The Permanent Secretaries, Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Ministry of Trade and Investments have been requested to explain and account for the sum of N12,923,076.92, otherwise, recover the amount and forward the recovery particulars for audit verification”.

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It said that the staff strength of the Nigeria High Commission in London was over-bloated, especially with local staff numbering 106 as at November, 2016, adding that there arbitrary and discretionary engagement, deployment and placement of local staff by the mission.

The Auditor General said there was a general lack of standard and uniformity in the conditions of service of the local staff, most of whom are Nigerians living in the United Kingdom while an average sum of £226,974.80 was spent monthly on the remuneration of the local staff, compared to the £74,108.38 spent on the home based officers.

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The report said further that “the Nigerian Embassy, Berlin, Germany has 8 (Eight) members of home based staff and the Ambassador. The 8 members of home based staff were occupying 8 units of rented residential houses.

The Ambassador resides in a government owned property, the Embassy occupies a government owned property in Berlin while another property at Bonn owned by Government is presently unoccupied.

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“However, the Embassy expended the sum of N45,160,495.30 and N35,228,977.07 on maintenance of Office and Residential accommodation in 2012 and 2013 respectively.

The expenditure of the sum of N80,389,472.37 in 2012 and 2013 on 11 number of properties out of which 8 are rented does not portray economy.

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It would appear that the Embassy just expended this huge amount because the money was voted for it without putting economy into consideration.

The frequency of the maintenance of these properties was alarming and therefore, it would be concluded that the expenditure of the sum of N80,389,472.37 in 2012 and 2013, was made without due regard to economy contrary to Financial Regulation and should be frowned at.

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“Furthermore, the Embassy has a chancery at Berlin which is owned by the government of Nigeria, Surprisingly, a total sum of N31,264,762.09 was remitted to the Embassy in 2012 and 2013 for the payment of rent for Office (N16,254,395.09 and N15,010,367.00 remitted in 2012 and 2013 respectively).

Even though the Embassy did not expend on this subhead as evidenced by the 2012 and 2013 Vote Book balances, there was no evidence to show that the balance of N31,264,762.09 was returned to chest at the close of the financial years 2012 and 2013.

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It was in error to appropriate funds for the payment of rent of Office when the Embassy was occupying a Government owned property.

This arbitrary appropriation to subheads that were not needed could be the reason why Missions over expend on some subheads.

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“At the Nigerian embassy, The Hague, Netherlands, the sum of €66,730.00 was expended on the renovation of 6 Government properties. Furthermore, another sum of €226,393.345 was paid to two different contractors for the construction and repairs of the roof of the Chancery.

The sum of €28,670.00 (N6,232,608.70) was paid to a Consultant as part payment for consultancy services for the provision of Priced Bills of Quantities to the Embassy.

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However, the voucher did not have documents to support the payment. The Priced Bill of Quantities which was awarded at a total consultancy fee of €45,000.00 (N9,183,673.47) could not be produced for verification.

“Similarly, another payment of the sum of €14,000.00 (N2,978,723.40) made to another consultant being payment for various consultancy services to the Embassy had no supporting documents.

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The Mission claimed that these were bills that have been outstanding for many years, yet the Mission did not find it expedient to attach the supporting documents.”

It also said that in 2010, the Government of Borno State deposited the sum of €315,000.00 (N55,125,000.00) into the account of the Embassy for the purchase of Hospital Equipment, adding that the amount has been at the Embassy for quite some time without any word from the Government of Borno State, therefore, the Embassy decided to lodge the amount in a fixed deposit account, suggesting that the Government of Borno State with a view to immediately retrieving the sum of €315,000.00 (N55,125,000.00)

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Similarly, it said “On 28th July, 2010, the Ondo State Government opened a Students Account with Standard Chartered Bank, 13, Malcha Margclankyapuri, New Delhi with an initial deposit of Rs1,816,470 (N5,657,022.73).

Since the account was opened, there had not been any transaction to suggest that it was meant for Students except for the fact that the money was transferred from the original account Number 52405053734 to a Fixed Deposit Account Number 52430220290 with the same bank on 31st March, 2011 at an interest rate of 9.75% compounded quarterly and with maturity date of 7th March, 2012.

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“Further investigation revealed that there were no students from Ondo State in India, therefore, the purpose of this account remains inexplicable.

This account should be closed while the sum of N5,657,022.73 with all accrued interest should be remitted to the Government of Ondo State”.

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Alleged Misconduct: NJC summons 15 High Court Judges

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By Francesca Iwambe

At least Fifteen High Court Judges have been summon to appear before a panel empowered by the
National Judicial Council NJC to investigate alleged gross misconduct allegations brought against them.

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The 15-member probe panel is to determine the culpability of the Judges in the various petitions filed against them by individuals and corporate bodies.

This was contained in a statement by the NJC Director of Information, Mr Soji Oye on Friday.

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Oye confirmed that the decision to investigate the alleged erring Judges was taken at the Council’s 99th meeting presided over by the Chief Justice of Nigeria, Justice Olukayode Ariwoola.

The decision, the statement said, is sequel to the submission of recommendations of three Preliminary Complaint Assessment Committees which considered 66 petitions forwarded to them by the Council from all over the Federation.

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However, the statement did not name Judges to be probed, their divisions and specific nature of their alleged offences.

It however revealed that the Council dismissed petitions against 51 Judicial Officers of the Federal and State High Courts for either lack of merit, being subjudice, or being matters for appeal or that the concerned Judge have retired from Service.

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The statement explained that the Council was formally presented with the reviewed Judicial Information Technology Policy which established the general requirements and responsibilities for the Nigerian Judiciary systems and information.

“The policy provides for guidance of Courts and Judicial Bodies in protecting Confidentiality, Integrity and Availability (CIA) of judiciary function and process.

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” It also stipulates guidance for acceptable use of system, services and technologies as well as provisions for secure storage of judicial data and recovery processes in the event of emergencies or distress.

“Similarly, It further provides guidelines and incident management policies including Data Centre deployment and use policies.

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“The Scope is intended for all Courts and Judicial Bodies in Nigeria including staff of the Nigerian judiciary, employed or contracted to any Judicial Body handling information that is generated, received, stored, transmitted, or printed.

“It encompasses all personal or Judiciary identifiable data held in their Courts and Judicial Bodies’ systems and process including supporting mechanisms and technologies for managing such data at rest or in transit.

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“All staff are expected to comply with the policy and associated standard protocols and procedures that have been put in place to support the document.

“The policy is applicable to all Courts unit, departments of all Judicial Bodies in the Nigerian Judiciary.

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“Council noted appointments of Judicial Officers recommended for appointment at the last meeting who have been sworn –in as Judges of Federal and State High Courts.

“Reports from Standing and ad-hoc Committees of the Council were also presented at the Meeting as well as
notifications of retirement of 16 Judges and notification of death of a Judge from the Federal and State High Courts”, the statement further said.

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80 percent of Nigerians expose to one form of trauma, stress – Fr Ethusani

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By Francesca Iwambe, Abuja

A Roman Catholic priest and the Executive Director, of the Lux Terra Leadership Foundation, Rev. Fr. George Ehusani, has said that about 80 per cent of Nigerians have been exposed to one form of trauma stress or the other in the cause of their lives.

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Fr. Ehusani made this disclosure during the 2022 National Scientific Conference of the Nigerian Association of Industrial and Organisational Psychologists in Abuja.

Fr Ehusani lamented that a major part of the 62 years of Nigeria’s independence, has been characterised by suffering, pain, distress, and outrightly traumatising experiences for individuals, families, and communities.

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He said: “No wonder we hear the expression these days, that “Nigeria has happened to him!” or “Nigeria has happened to her!” To pick up our history of trauma from post-independence times, is not to ignore the brutal and ignominious legacy of the trans-Atlantic and trans-Sahara slave trade, which lasted for over four hundred years, and was sustained by the greed, the wickedness.

“And the callousness of our local leaders, (the Chiefs, Obas, Obis, and the Sarkis), who conspired with the unscrupulous foreign merchants to prosecute the reprehensible trade in human cargo, until the Whiteman changed his method of exploitation from slave trade and slave labour in the Americas, to colonialism, and then compelled our autochthonous conquerors to toe the line.

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“Thus, the present generation of Nigerians are descendants of the perpetrators as well as the survivors of that most callous and notorious shade of man’s inhumanity against man, by which fellow human beings were raided, sold into slavery, and shipped across the Atlantic Ocean to a land of no return, or they and generations of their descendants were condemned to a dehumanising life of servitude within the country.

“Following closely after the four hundred years of slave trade was another one hundred years of colonial exploitation, which has left behind devastating consequences on the individual and corporate psyche of Nigerians, as indeed is the experience with people of other colonised African countries. With the short time available for this presentation, I resolved to limit myself to post-independence Nigeria, and the series of traumatising events that have turned us into such a wounded and hurting group of people, that are constantly acting out our individual and intergenerational traumas in wounding and hurting our fellow sufferers.

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Explaining further how the trauma was dated years back, the Catholic Cleric said; “The Operation Wetie of Western Nigeria that started in 1962, to the 1966 Coup and the infamous pogrom against Igbos that followed in the North, which all culminated in the unfortunate civil war of 1967 to 1970, an event that unleashed unprecedented horror on individuals, families and communities, the same civil war that was the excuse for the Asaba Massacre of October 7, 1967, when callous or vengeful officers of the 2nd Division of the Nigerian Army ordered the execution in cold blood, of over 700 unarmed men and boys, who assembled in one location to welcome the Federal troops upon the liberation of the Midwest from the Biafran Army”.

He added that hundreds of others were rounded up from their homes, their farms or their hiding places and executed. It is reported that the massacre was so comprehensive, so total, that there were no men left to bury the dead. While many of the victims were buried in mass graves, some courageous women and girls dragged the corpses of their fathers and husbands, and uncles and brothers, from where they were executed to their homes, where they used hoes to dig shallow graves for the dead.

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“There is the story of a particular boy who witnessed the soldiers asking a young man to dig his own grave, and thereafter callously pushing him into the grave with a torrent of bullets! There is hardly any family in Asaba that did not lose three or four male members – fathers, sons”, he explained.

Fr Ehusani who further lamented that Nigerians are all victims of the ongoing trauma stressed the need to create more awareness in addressing the growing menace.

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“After creating public awareness and inspiring some measure of sensitivity to the reality of intergenerational, communal, and personal trauma in the Nigerian society, the next challenge before the professionals in the psychological sciences will be that of spearheading the transformation of our families, communities, organisations and institutions, including religious organisations, corporate organisations, schools and college, government offices, legislative houses, police stations and courtrooms as well as hospitals and correctional centres, etc, into trauma informed organisations and institutions.

“The process will involve a workplace culture that takes into critical account available knowledge about trauma, about trauma prevalence, about the possible impact of trauma, and how people recover from trauma. Public Officers and Legislators, Corporate and Human Resource Managers, Judicial and Police officers and School Administrators, Teachers and Counsellors, Pastors and Imams, and young people preparing for marriage, etc., should be made to undergo some basic training in psycho-trauma awareness.

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“For a saner society to emerge, perhaps every adult in the workplace and at home, should be introduced to the now well-known SAMHSA’s Six Principles of Trauma Informed Care which are also an imperative for Trauma Informed Leadership, and Trauma Informed Human Resource management”, Fr Ehusani added.

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Security tips: Stop Flaunting Wealth On Social Media-DSS advises Nigerians

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Kayode Sanni Arewa

The Department of State Services (DSS) has warned Nigerians against flaunting wealth on social media to avoid possible harmful situations.

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In a statement published by Vanguard, the secret police warned that reckless display of wealth could attract the attention of violent criminals, especially kidnappers and armed robbers..

DSS said these criminals are always on the watch out for an opportunity to strike, stressing that open display of opulence at a time that criminality is getting more sophisticated and violent, does not make sense.

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The statement reads, “To show they are not only mandated to protect the government and the state alone, the Directorate of State Services, DSS, routinely issues public security advisories to enable the citizenry play their role in their own security and that of society.

Apart from advisories on possible terror attacks, the Service also harps on the need for upwardly mobile individuals, especially the youth, to desist from the growing fad of reckless display of material wealth so as not to attract the attention of violent criminals, especially kidnappers and armed robbers.

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It is common to see young people displaying their fleet of flashy cars, newly completed and luxuriously furnished mansions and raw cash to show they have “blown” (made it). Some get themselves conspicuously videoed spraying bundles of cash at ceremonies and post it to the social media for maximum publicity. Others ask members of the public to drop their account numbers to receive financial windfalls.

Coming at a time that criminality is getting more sophisticated and violent, this fad simply makes no sense. These criminals are always on the watch out for an opportunity to strike. Even if the wealth flaunter adequately secures himself or herself, what about their loved ones who are put at risk?

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The unfortunate thing is that what these individuals see as “wealth” is not much in real terms, particularly if they have no sure means of sustaining the income. Many celebrities have flaunted wealth only to turn beggars a few years down the road.

We advise anyone who feels he or she has arrived materially to apply common sense. They should save for the rainy day which is sure to come. They should acquire financial education and invest wisely to secure their future. They should borrow a leaf from accomplished, genuinely wealthy industrialists like Aliko Dangote, Cosmas Maduka, Folorunsho Alakija and others who live humble lifestyles despite their enormous wealth.

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It is unfortunate that our law enforcement agencies, especially the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC; the federal and state tax agencies and others, are not doing enough to clamp down on people who display wealth, verify their sources and tax them appropriately.

These agencies must wake up and act. Adequate taxation and moderation of the excesses of citizens are parts of the functions of governance. These wealth advertisers portray the moral rot in society. They unwittingly send the wrong signals, especially to fellow youth to pursue material wealth by all means, thus worsening the crime rates in society.

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Those who have actually made it and want to benefit the less privileged ones should emulate singer, David Adeleke (Davido), who once raised N200 million and added N50 million from his pocket which he donated to orphanages around the country. Let there be sanity.”

END

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