Re: Nigeria’s Petroleum Ministry Spent N98.4m On Printing Flyers

By Adewole Kehinde

My attention was recently drawn to an online publication this morning titled “Nigeria’s Petroleum Ministry spent N98.4m on Printing Flyer” even though the Ministry of Petroleum Resources has debunked the news has it appeared in several newspapers since Friday, 11 December, 2020 and have also been trending on the social media.

It will be recalled that the Senate Public Account Committee has described as unacceptable the payment of N98.4m by the Petroleum Resources Ministry for the printing of leaflets.

The flyers, according to the 2015 Auditor-General for the Federation’s report, were meant to create awareness campaign for the Petroleum Industrial Bill.

The report also stated that the fund was released without due process.

The Chairman of the Senate panel, Senator Matthew Urhoghide, also faulted the payment of N39m was into the accounts of two persons for the purpose of monitoring the ministry’s project within the Federal Capital Territory.

The report shows that the contracts were awarded in 2014 when the former Head of Service (HoS), Danladi Kifasi, was the Permanent Secretary in the ministry.

It also revealed that five consultancy jobs were awarded on July 14, 2014, while the project on training was awarded on October 17, 2014, and the payment was made in the 2015 budget.

The Auditor-General of the Federation (AuGF) alleged that the ministry failed to produce documents to support the genuineness of the payments, despite repeated requests.

My response is due to the misinformation by section of the media that the Buhari/Sylva administration was involved in the fraudulent contracts. That is why I had to highlight the dates the contracts were awarded so as to place it with the administration in government then.

The Auditor-General of the Federation in another query, faulted the payment of N39.7m into the bank accounts of two officers for the purpose of monitoring the ministry’s projects located within Abuja.

The query said contrary to the e-payment policy of the Federal Government, the total sum of N39.7m was paid to 178 staff of the ministry for project monitoring and evaluation in 2014.

Not satisfied with the Ministry’s explanation, the Senate panel directed the officers involved to return the money to the federation account.

It will be recalled that the Special Adviser to the Minister of State, Petroleum, Mr Garba Deen, on behalf of his principal, Chief Timipre Sylva has responded well to the allegation but still wondered why some online media will on Monday, 18th January, 2020 still repeat the news as Breaking News!

For the record, I will repeat Mr Garba Deen statement thus:

“The Ministry of Petroleum Resources has denied complicity in the alleged fraudulent purchases of  biros, papers and inks worth N116 million by some unnamed former officials of the ministry.

“It said the alleged breaches happened in 2015, before President Muhammadu Buhari assumed office and also before the present leadership of the ministry was appointed.

“The statement noted that the alleged culprits are being investigated by the Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Commission (ICPC).

“Noting that the matter was trending online in some traditional media concerns, the ministry stated that the affected civil servants had either retired or redeployed to other ministries in line with routine civil service rules.

“The release,  titled: “Re: Buhari’s oil ministry reels under corruption allegation”, stated: “The attention of the Ministry of Petroleum Resources has been drawn to numerous publications on the above subject which have appeared in several newspapers since Friday, 11 December, 2020 and have also been trending on the social media.

“Since these publications relate to issues that predated the present leadership of the Ministry of Petroleum, we initially did not react.

“But it has become obvious that some people are determined to misinform the public on this matter, despite the clarification made by the ministry which was published on page 17 of the ThisDay Newspaper of Tuesday, December 22, 2020.

“The general public should note that while it is true that the Auditor-General raised audit observations on infractions committed by the Ministry of Petroleum Resources, these infractions related to the 2015 accounts of the Ministry of Petroleum Resources.

“It should further be noted that these infractions appeared in the 2015 report of the Auditor-General for the Federation which is presently under consideration by the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) of the Senate. “The public should further note that the officers the report of the Auditor-General for the Federation indicted have since been retired or redeployed out of the Ministry of Petroleum Resources in line with the practice in the civil service.

“The Ministry of Petroleum Resources appreciates the genuine concern of well-wishers who have drawn our attention to these publications and wish to assure them that the infractions happened way back in 2015.

It is on this note that I want to call on media practitioners to verify their news before going to publication and when in doubt, they leave out the news.

Adewole Kehinde is the Publisher of Swift Reporters and Chairman of the Online Reporters Association of Nigeria. He can be reached via 08166240846, 08123608992

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