Reps to summon Okonjo-Iweala over N1.17bn River Basin fund

By Joshua Egbodo

Indications have emerged that former Minister of Finance, Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala may be summoned by the House of Representatives  over the unsatisfactory manner in which a presidential directive to release N1.17billion  belonging to Sokoto Rima River Basin Development Authority (SRRBA) was reversed.

An ad-hoc committee of the House investigating the reversal of payment of the sum, said it discovered that former President Goodluck Jonathan, in a letter, approved the request for the payment of the sum due to it, and same conveyed to the Accountant General of the Federation (AGF) by Okonjo-Iweala when she was Minister, according to the office of the AGF.
The committee said the payment was made into the accounts of the SRRBDA on March 9, 2015 but withdrawn in two tranches within a week in May 2015. The first  withdrawal of N784 million, it was discovered was made on 6th May, 2015, while the second, N90 million was made on 12th May 2015  but executed on 16th, May 2015 by the CBN.

The CBN  last week told the committee during an investigative hearing recently that it credited and reversed the payment on the directives of the Office of the Accountant General of the Federation (OAGF), but it was gathered however that the committee has resolved to request from the CBN, records of transfers and reversal of the money.
According to the Managing Director of the agency, Mukhtar Anka, the appeal was made, knowing that the agency has some outstanding fund with the federal government because all previous budgets were never fully released since 2012.

He said; “We could no longer meet our project and contractual obligations, while our contractors were bothering us. That was why we made the appeal”.
Representative of the CBN, Suleiman Barau said the bank carried out its duties based on approved and duly signed mandates from office of the AGF, who owned all accounts of Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDA).

Mr. M Dikwa, Director, Funds, who represented the Accountant General of the Federation (AGF), Ahmed Idris however explained that the reversal of the fund was carried out through a Ministerial memoranda, unlike the approval that was effected through a Presidential approval.
The Hon. Evelyn Oboro-led committee expressed regrets that many of such payments may have been made by the AGF in the past only to claim to have made new discoveries latter.
“We are interested in who applied for the withdrawal since payment was initiated through an application by the SRRBDA. More importantly, there is a need to know how a Ministerial directive can override a presidential approval,” the committee leader submitted.