Buhari probes Ministry of Finance over alleged diversion of $1.005bn

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President Muhammadu Buhari on Monday queried the Ministry of Finance over alleged diversion of foreign loans obtained for rail projects by the administration of former President Goodluck Jonathan.

President Buhari
President Buhari

Specifically, the President is seeking clarification on alleged diversion of a substantial part of a $1.005bn loan obtained from the Chinese Exim Bank for the construction of a standard gauge rail line linking Lagos to Kano.

The funds were said to have been moved elsewhere.

The Senior Special Assistant to the President on Media and Publicity, Garba Shehu, said this in a statement made available to journalists in Abuja.

Shehu said Buhari’s query followed the visit of the Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Transport, Alhaji Mohammed Bashar, who briefed the President on the ministry’s activities at the Presidential Villa, Abuja.

The President was reported to have described as disappointing to find that foreign loans obtained in line with signed agreements were moved from one project to another.

“I hope that due process was followed before such diversions were carried out. Taking money from one project to another has to be done properly,” the President warned.

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Bashar was said to have informed the President that only $400m of the $1.005bn loan remained with the finance ministry. Thus, the remaining amount in the ministry is $605m (N119.16bn).

The President regretted that government had over the years failed to meet its counterpart funding obligations on some projects, leading to such projects being either uncompleted or abandoned.

He added that there was a clear need to “streamline, harmonise and prioritise ongoing projects in the transportation sector.”

Bashar also briefed the President on other challenges facing the transport and maritime sectors, such as encroachment on railway land, lack of security on inland waterways and the confused nature of agreements between the Nigeria Ports Authority and ports concessionaires.

He later told State House correspondents that the ministry would meet the December deadline for the completion of the Abuja-Kaduna rail track.

He said, “The rehabilitation programme of the old gauge lines, as you are aware, we have completed the Lagos-Kano and it is operational. Twice a week, people move from Lagos to Kano and back to Lagos.

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“We have also recently commenced operation from Kano to Port Harcourt, and Port Harcourt to Gombe and from Gombe upwards we have some challenges.

“With regard to Abuja-Kaduna, track has been completely laid and we are now waiting for locomotives to arrive, which have been ordered and paid for. Our belief is that we will meet the deadline of December, 2015.”

Meanwhile, Buhari on Monday appointed a Presidential Advisory Committee against Corruption. The committee is to be headed by Prof. Itse Sagay, a professor of law and civil rights activist.

The birth of the PAC is coming at a time three international development partners floated a $5m Anti-Corruption and Criminal Justice Reform Fund in support of the Federal Government.

The Special Adviser to the President on Media and Publicity, Mr. Femi Adesina, disclosed this in a statement.

Adesina said the committee’s brief was to advise the administration on the prosecution of the war against corruption and the implementation of required reforms in the nation’s criminal justice system.

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He said the committee would be saddled with the responsibility of developing comprehensive interventions for achieving the recommended reforms.

Other members of the committee include a Professor of Criminology, Ahmadu Bello University, Femi Odekunle; an Associate Professor of International Law, University of Jos, Benedicta Daudu; Professor of Sociology, University of Jos,   E. Alemika; Professor of Criminology, Bayero University, Kano, Sadiq Radda; a civil society activist, Hadiza Bala Usman; and Prof. Bolaji Owasanoye of the Nigerian Institute of Advanced Legal Studies, who will serve as the committee’s secretary.

Adesina’s statement added, “In support of the Federal Government’s efforts, an Anti-Corruption and Criminal Justice Reform Fund has been established by three international development partners namely the Ford Foundation, MacArthur Foundation and Open Society Foundation.

“The $5m fund is to assist implementation of key components of the Action Plan and the work of the Presidential Advisory Committee.

“The fund will be managed by Trust Africa, an international development civil society organisation with programme presence in more than 25 African countries.”

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