Between September and December 2019, a princely ₦4.6bn was illegally paid into the private accounts of some directors and employees of the then Ministry of Power, Works and Housing, data obtained by PREMIUM TIMES have shown.
Although the Ministry of Power in response to an Freedom of Information request by the newspaper claimed that only N157mn was paid to 127 staff members within the period under review, records proved that the ministry’s claim was untrue.
The Ministry of Power is now a standalone ministry and it is now led by Saleh Mamman.
But at the time the allocation for the payments was made in 2019, the omnibus Ministry of Works, Power and Housing was headed by Babatunde Fashola, a former governor of Lagos.
The records, some obtained from the Open Treasury Portal, show that the sum of N4.6bn (exactly ₦4,608,394,262.22) was paid in 654 tranches into the accounts of 21 private individual accounts.
Two-thirds of that amount went to two men: Ogueri Ugochukwu Pascal and Olasehinde Micah.
While Mr Pascal was paid ₦1.6bn (₦1,642,407,539.93) in 306 tranches, Mr Micah was paid ₦1.4bn (₦1,417,921,892.59) in 34 tranches.
Most of the payments that summed up to ₦4.6bn came with little, sometimes vague, details.
A striking example is contained in the data published on the open treasury portal on October 26, 2019.
Mr Pascal was paid a total of ₦159m for such things as “zonal revenue tour,” “disbursement of funds for right of way,” “verification exercise,” “quarterly budget implementation,” each in the six geopolitical zones, as well as to conduct the “2019 senior staff promotion exercise,” and for “junior staff promotion in the housing sector.”
Also, a total payment of ₦134m was made to Adebowale Adebayo Kamoru as “six months allowances to the NHP staff” in each of the six geopolitical zones.
The identity of Pascal and Kamoru could not be identified as online searches for their names yielded little details other than the filings of payments made to their accounts on the treasury portal.
The Ministry of Power claimed they were not its staff members while the Works and Housing Ministry did not respond to request for clarification.
The data on the portal further revealed that Mr Kamoru alongside five other zonal directors of the National Housing Programme under the Ministry of Works and Housing were paid in October alone a sum of ₦44.6m “to embark on quarterly budget implementation in the six geopolitical zones”.
Below is a summary of the payments and their beneficiaries.
They include Onwubalili Oyinlola Adunola, a project coordinator of the Ministry of Works and Housing; Nwaimo Obi Valentine, the North-Central Zonal Director of the programme; Uzodinma Lucy Iquo; Oko-Jaja Emmanuel Daminabo, the South-South Zonal Director; and Waziri Mshella Micah, also a zonal director.
The Ministry of Power claimed that despite contrary evidence, only N157m was paid to 127 staff members.
The 127 staffers were cut down from the longlist of 142 persons it sent, 10 of whom were on PREMIUM TIMES’ initial list of 21.
It said six others were not its staff members and gave no information about the remaining five.
In the ministry’s list of 142, it said 15 of them, to whom it said a total of N465m was paid, are not its staff members.
“This may be due to the fact that the ministry has been separated from the Ministry of Works and Housing,” the letter dated October 14 and signed by the ministry’s Director of Finance, Adewumi Omotayo, read.
The FOI request acknowledged by the Works and Housing Ministry on October 28 seeking comments on the said personnel has not been replied.
Fashola’s spokesperson, Hakeem Bello, also directed all inquiries to the Power Ministry.
A review of the ministry’s N157m paid to 127 staffers showed that a total of N141.3m as duty tour allowance to 97 staffers, with the highest amount of N28.78m going to one Nwachukwu Chiemeka Ogbonna.
How a single staff member will receive almost N29m in duty tour allowance in four months remains unclear.
Another N3.3m was paid as “open pocket expense” to 20 personnel, the ministry’s response showed.
Ajanaku Waidi got N337,000 of this amount.
Likewise, N7.2m was paid to four personnel to purchase office equipment.
They include Adikwu Ogbe Friday, N745,789; Agbawa Ogueri George, N1.1m; Ahmed Yaro Nafisa, N583,200; Olutayo Andrew Bukola, N4.8m.
An advance payment (imprest) of N382,400 was also paid to three employees (Akanbi Iyabo, Akinyemi Adefunke and Alawode Felicia).
Other payments include N4.6m for “printing of document FEC memos”; N476,600 as payment for union matter; and N530,600 as (four months) salary to Bobai Rifkatu, a domestic attendant in the ministry (or commissionaire as described by the ministry). Although the ministry said its staff members who benefited are from level 12 to 17.
The ministry’s payments of monies into private accounts violates chapter 7, section 701 of the financial regulation of the country.
Agencies are compelled by the provision “to operate only three bank accounts as follows: salary account, overhead cost account and revenue account” as “no other bank account shall be allowed without the express approval of the Accountant-General.”
Section 713 of the same chapter also says under no condition should personal money be paid into the government’s bank account “nor shall any public money be paid into a private bank account.”
“An officer who pays public money into a private account is deemed to have done so with fraudulent intention,” the section reads.
The Nigerian Government launched the open treasury portal in December 2019 as part of a move towards increasing transparency in government spending.
It, however, did not take off until 2020, although the daily update of the portal remained sluggish as of March.
The portal aims to provide a comprehensive space for the collation of data by all ministries, departments and agencies on budget implementation, financial records, as well as transactions above certain thresholds.
But a series of on the portal has raised concerns among accountability advocates.
In June, a civic advocacy group, BudgIT, said, between January and July 2019, it discovered that large sums were paid into personal accounts including several records with vague descriptions and other discrepancies on the portal.
PREMIUM TIMES also observed that in the same month, ₦13.5m was paid to “Jauro Aishatu Audu” for “capacity building.”
“Over 2,900 payments to individuals were recorded at an aggregate value of ₦51bn,” the group said.
“A few examples include, ₦2.04bn and ₦1bn paid into personal accounts on the 21st of June, 2019 without any payment description along with another ₦68m payment for “Ogunsuyi” and ₦15.8m for “international” on other dates.
“In the same 2019, we also discovered payment records without descriptions or beneficiary information.
At least 5,000 payment records valued at ₦278bn were without descriptions and 275 payment records with a value of ₦43bn were without beneficiary name.
“These inconspicuous payments cannot be assessed or traced by citizens and interested parties, thereby defeating the purpose of the platform to foster transparency.”
This is the first installation of a series of reports on how the nation’s ministries are breaching the law to make payments into private accounts of their employees and other private individuals.
SaharaReporters, New York