Ahead of the Senate Committee on Niger Delta’s consideration of the 2015 Status Report of the Presidential Amnesty Programme at the Senate today, senators have indicated their disapproval of the over N48 billion purportedly spent by the President Muhammadu Buhari’s coordinator of the programme, Brig-Gen. Paul Boro (rtd), since he assumed office last July.
The senators, who preferred not to be named, were particularly concerned over Boro’s purchase of official vehicles for his office for over N157 million as well as the huge sums of money purported to have been expended on the training of ex-militants between November and December last year.
The expenditure, which according to the senators, was listed in the annual status report of the Amnesty Office sent to the Senate Committees on Niger Delta and Public Procurement, have made nonsense of the federal government’s efforts at belt tightening measures, arising from the nation’s dwindling earnings from crude oil.
The annual report, which the two Senate committees would review along with the office’s 2016 budget today, said the senators, indicated that Boro who took over from Hon. Kingsley Kuku as Presidential Adviser on the Amnesty Programme under the current administration, in just five months awarded contracts worth about N48 billion.
Describing most of the contracts awarded by Boro as “mostly nebulous or frivolous”, the senators were particularly irked that at a time Buhari had castigated the National Assembly for its proposal to buy official cars for senators and members of the House of Representatives, the Amnesty Office coordinator, who is just an appointee of the president, had since acquired as his official car, an armoured Lexus LX 570 Sport Utility Vehicle (SUV) with communications equipment for VIP movement.
The exotic official car was acquired from Wada Autos Limited at the princely sum of N55 million and full payment has since been made by the Amnesty Office.
“The president claims to be fighting corruption while his aides are already swimming in corruption. Can you imagine a Special Adviser using a bullet proof Lexus car worth N55 million as an official car at a time the president is trying to stop us from buying our own official cars worth about N5 million each? So what happened to the monetisation policy of the federal government?” queried an irate senator, who is a member of the Senate Committee on Niger Delta.
The report before the two Senate committees and sighted by THISDAY also indicated that Boro had further acquired for his office from Globe Motors Limited, the following cars: one Toyota Land Cruiser VX V8 at the cost of N25.85 million; four Toyota Camry 3.5L V6 cars and four Toyota Hilux 4WD buses at the total sum of N75.35 million. Globe Motors has since been paid fully the sum.
Some of the senators complained that a thorough analysis of contract documents attached to the report showed that at a time Nigeria is experiencing perhaps its worst economic downturn in recent times, Buhari’s adviser on the Niger Delta Amnesty Programme appears only concerned about awarding “frivolous” contracts.
“We expected him to restructure the budget he inherited from his predecessor at the Amnesty Office to fit into current economic realities and in line with the anti-corruption crusade of President Buhari. Unfortunately Boro is just spending recklessly,” lamented another senator who did not want to be named.
Credible sources at the Amnesty Office, however, confided in THISDAY that Boro began the contract awards in November 2015 apparently to beat the December 31 deadline for the return of unspent monies to the treasury, as stipulated by the extant financial regulations in Nigeria.
The nation’s financial regulations stipulate that unspent appropriated funds be returned to the treasury after December 31 every year. However, the federal government made exemptions for the funding of capital projects to continue till March 2016.
Latching on to the need to “empower” already trained Niger Delta ex-agitators, THISDAY sources claimed that some of the contracts did not follow established guidelines for awards.
Said a source: “In several instances, the same contractors used by the former administration of Kingsley Kuku, who already had due clearance from the Bureau of Public Procurement (BPP) were rushed in to handle the so-called empowerment contracts.”
According to an angry senator, the contract awards occurred in spite of the fact that several of the Amnesty Programme’s trainees in universities abroad were either stranded or had been repatriated due to their inability to meet with their financial obligations to their schools.
The senator said his investigations had revealed that under the guise that there was no money to pay the ex-militants’ tuition and in-training allowances, Boro had ordered the students in universities in the UK, United States of America, Canada, United Arab Emirates, Russia, the Philippines, Belarus and elsewhere abroad, to return to Nigeria.
“Several of them have since returned and are on the verge of being placed in Nigerian universities to continue their education. The Amnesty Office cannot afford to deploy or maintain delegates offshore anymore,” he quoted a senior official of the Education Department of the Amnesty Office as saying.
The senator said officials of the Amnesty Office told him that N510 million was paid to an institution, Westerfield Colleges, to prepare 150 students for the Unified Tertiary Matriculation Examination (UTME).
This transaction, according to him, stipulated that over a period spanning just two months, Westerfield Colleges would prepare the students for the UTME organised by JAMB at a cost of N3.4 million per delegate.
“The same Boro who has been telling Nigerians that the Amnesty Office does not have money to fund the education of students abroad is the one awarding a contract worth N510 million to an institution to organise JAMB classes for fresh students. This is really very silly and embarrassing,” he said.
Even more curious, he claimed, was the fact that the payment of the N510 million by the Amnesty Office was not treated as a contract, hence no award letter was issued to Westerfield.
Rather, the senator further claimed, Boro in glaring breach of the Procurement Act and other extant financial regulations of the federal government, ordered that the payment to Westerfield be passed off as a direct payment to a school and students.
Efforts to reach Boro and his media consultant, Mr. Owei Lakemfa, failed, as neither of them responded to calls to their mobile phones. A text sent to Lakemfa’s phone was also not replied.