The House of Representatives’ public account Committee, has threatened to sanction officials of the Ministry of environment for allegedly auctioning 12 River Basins, even though the Minister for Water Resources, Suleiman Adamu, admitted that the Ministry under his command erred in law, when it ordered the auctioning of government property within the confines of the 12 River Basin Development Authorities across the country.
Chairman of the Committee, Hon Oluwole Oke (PDP, Osun), while reviewing the Minister’s appearance before the Committee on Thursday, June 16, 2022, said yesterday that the minister claimed that he was not aware of the provisions of section 55 of the Public Procurement Act, which vested the power on the agencies.
The Ministry had, through four Auctioneers, auctioned several billions naira worth of assets at a total sum of N137,235,746.50, a figure which is a far cry from the valuation of the Office of the Auditor General for the Federation.
Oke, who sought to know whether the Management of four of the River Basin Development Authorities that appeared before the committee willingly auctioned the property of the agencies, informed that it was a crime in the eye of the law for them to allow another person to perform their duties without recourse to the law.
“Your minister was here last week and admitted that he actually raped the law. He apologised and said he did not know that this law actually existed. How can you just carry auctioneers, give them government property to auction.
“Is the Minister for Water Resources the same as Upper Niger Basin Development Authority? They went to Abeokuta and carried the property belonging to Nigerians and they admitted that we have 12 River Basin Development Authorities.
“The Auctioneers are here and we asked them how they knew that the items will be auctioned. Where is the advertisement you responded to. How many auctioneers do we have in Nigeria and why is it just four that were selected to do the auction? Your colleague from Abeokuta was rushing to defend the Ministry.
“They carried out the auction without recourse to the provisions of the law. It is this same law that sent Bode George and his co-travelers at NPA to jail. It is the same law that earned Ngilari that we wrote the law together in 2003, a sentence in Adamawa.
“You do not wait for somebody to take over your function, because he is your supervisory ministry. The former Chairman of the Board of Ogun/Osun said he is coming to this parliament to testify of how he tried to stop them, using police and everything. Yet, they forcefully took away government property and sold them at ridiculous prizes,” he explained.
The Minister, while appearing before the Committee said he was not in office, when the proposal to auction the items in the River Basin Development Authorities was first tabled, an excuse that the Committee frowned at.
A submission by the Ministry to the Committee, however, indicate that a Board of Survey was constituted by the Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Water Resources on the 7th of October 2018 and headed by the Director of Human Resources, Abdul-Sule Mohammed, with the mandate to inspect all the unserviceable items listed for disposal by the agencies among others.
The committee, however, frowned at the attitude of management of government agencies to accounting for government money at their disposal by failing to render their audited account to the office of the Auditor General for the Federation as required by law.
Deputy Chairman of the Committee, Rep Sa’ad Abdulkadir (APC, Bauchi), said the agencies had made it a habit to disobey the laws of the land, which stipulate that agencies of government must submit their audited account to the Auditor General for the Federation on or before 31st of May of the preceding year.
Currently, Financial Regulation 3129 considers failure to render financial account by agencies on stipulated dates as gross misconduct, which is punishable by dismissal from service for the officer involved.