BY VICTOR BUORO, ABUJA – Following the discovery of alleged sleazes and financial malpractices running to over N210 million in the Federal Ministry of Education, the Nigeria Union of Journalists (NUJ), FCT Chapter has taken the bold step to demand from the Minister of Education, Malam Adamu Adamu, to provide explanation to the questionable expenditures in his ministry that are at variance with laid down public expenditures and accountability.
The NUJ in a letter addressed to the Minister of Education, said that its request is in line with the Constitutional prerogative as contained in Chapter 22 of the Nigerian Constitution 1999 as Amended and fundamentally the Freedom of Information Act 2011.
The Union explained that it is engaged in the development of Good Governance and Accountability Report based on available queries and petitions from key government institutions, stakeholders and even individuals.
Towards this end, the NUJ demanded the Offices of the Minister of Education to provide to it with a detailed explanation and breakdown in respect of the questionable payments, stressing that its request is in respect of extant rules and regulations on public procurement, tenders and payments.
Accordingly, it demanded for the details of Payment of one of the most questionable expenditures as contained in Payment No: 1000645885-1 Payer Code: 0517001001 raised and paid to ALAWANI, ODION EDWIN for the bogus amount of N75,527,711.00 allegedly “for verification of 86 EX-Corpers in various institution in UK, USA and AUSTRALIA.”
This is in spite of the fact that the National Youth Service Scheme (NYSC) is under the supervision of the Federal Ministry of Youth and Sports and not the Ministry of Education.
Similarly, No. 1000645263 – Payer Code: 0517001001 amounting to N35, 860, 837.00 was paid to the same ALAWANI, ODION EDWIN allegedly for “quarterly monitoring of Education for Change.”
Other demands of the NUJ include; “Payment No. 1000645263-2 Payer code: 0517001001 amounting to N7,295,000.00 paid to ANYASODOR, IJEOMA CATHERINE allegedly “for report writing publication and dissemination of 2019 Nigeria Digest of Education Statistics.
“Payment Code: 1000645263-4 Payer code: 0517001001 amounting to N40, 000, 000.00 to the same ALAWANI, ODION EDWIN allegedly for payment under the heading; “Payment for Popularisation and Strengthening of Technical and Science Education through (JETS).”
“Payment No: 1000645261-1 Payer Code: 517001001 covering N15, 000, 000 made to MAIMUNA TASALLA ABDULLAHI as “payment of welfare incentives to staff of the ministry for 2019 Christmas.”
Others include Payment No: 1000645261-2 Payer Code: 0517001001 with amount of N15, 000, 000 to the same MAIMUNA TASALLA ABDULLAHI as “balance of payment for welfare for staff.”
Another funny Payment was No: 1000645885-2 Payer Code: 0517001001 with the sum of N8,354,876.00 made to DANJUMA BAWA ABDULLAHI as “payment for the conduct of 2019 promotion, conversion, upgrading and advancement interview for levels 06-13”.
The NUJ request also include; “Payment No: 1000645885-1 Payer Code: 0517001001 PETER LARAI N13,012,000.00 “payment for Re-tooling and Re-skilling of 74 EMIS Staff in 6 Geo-political Zone.” The letter which was signed by the Chairman of Council, Mr Emmanuel Ogbeche and Secretary, Mr. Ochiaka Ugwu states that their requests are brought in the public interest, and in keeping with the requirements of the Nigerian Constitution 1999 [as amended], the Freedom of Information Act, the UN Convention against Corruption, African Union Convention on Preventing and Combating Corruption, and African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights to which Nigeria is a state party.
The duo of Ogbeche and Ugwu explained that by Section 1 (1) of the Freedom of Information (FoI) Act 2011, and Article 9 of the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights, the NUJ FCT is entitled as of right to request for or gain access to information, including information on details of beneficiaries of the afore mentioned direct payments.
The NUJ further states; “By Section 4 (a) of the FOI Act, when a person makes a request for information from a public official, institution or agency, the public official, institution or agency to whom the application is directed is under a binding legal obligation to provide the applicant with the information requested for, except as otherwise provided by the Act, within seven days after the application is received.
“By Sections 2(3)(d)(V) & (4) of the FOI Act, there is a binding legal duty to ensure that documents containing information including information on details of the afore mentioned payments.
“The information being requested does not come within the purview of the types of information exempted from disclosure by the provisions of the FoI Act.
“The information requested for as indicated above, apart from not being exempted from disclosure under the FoI Act, bothers on an issue of national interest, public concern, interest of human rights, social justice, good governance, transparency and accountability,” the NUJ insists