By its action, the health ministry has contravened chapter 7, section 701 of the financial Nigeria’s financial regulation.
Not less than N2.4 billion was paid into the private accounts of 25 staff members of the health ministry in four months, PREMIUM TIMES’ reviews of the data from the open treasury portal (OTP) have shown.
The amount (2,400,759,805.90) was paid in tranches by the nation’s health headquarters in the last quarter of 2019 – September to December. The health ministry won’t explain why the illegal disbursements were made. It has failed to respond to an inquiry by this newspaper.
A little more than N2 billion, or 86 per cent, went to the accounts of five of the 25 personnel identified to have received payments during the months under review.
They include Bulam Sadiq Abubakar, Musa Adamu Musa, Ajiji Barde Yusuf, Adama Mohammed Danladi, Mohammed Badeggi, Mohammed. In that order, they each received the highest amounts of payments.
Mr Bulam alone got roughly 28 per cent of the amount, which is a little more than N671 million, paid in 83 tranches in four months.
On his part, Mr Musa was paid about N471.5 million in the spread of 28 tranches.
Likewise, Mr Ajiji received about N392.4 million in 68 tranches; Mr Adama, N355.9 million paid in 110 instalments; and Mr Mohammed, N175 million paid over 30 transfers.
The balance of over N400 million was shared among 20 other staff, with the least paid persons taking home more than N5 million. Onoja Oche George received more than N5.9 million, and Idris Abdullahi was paid approximately N5.4 million.
PREMIUM TIMES, in an FOI request acknowledged by the health ministry October 28, asked for details of these personnel, but has received no response till date.
In November, the ministry said the request “is being processed and the findings will be communicated to you in due course.”
Had the health ministry responded, it would have provided the detailed breakdown of the expenses for which the transfers were made, why and how the payments were made as well as if it has been the culture of the ministry to wire huge amounts of money to its employees’ accounts, in clear violation of the nation’s financial regulations.
Recurring lack of probity
Further searches for records of the said officials online, especially on the OTP, showed that, in the past, a slew of suspicious payments were made into their personal accounts.
On November 6, 2018 alone, Mr Ajiji’s records on the portal showed that he was paid N29.8 million, in advance, for air ticket, estacode for a conference in New York, U.S.A., and meeting allowance for the Presidential Independent Fact-Finding Panel on National Health Insurance Scheme (PIFFP-NHIS).
Five months later, Mr Ajiji was again credited with about N202.9 million as the emolument for “health and nutrition emergency response in Borno,” which the portal records showed was a balance from December 2018 to March 2019.
The same month, another health ministry official, Dorothy Nkiruka Ezeokpube, was paid N12.3 million as duty tour allowance and local transport payments to respond to a humanitarian crisis in Zamfara.
By the same token, on February 28 this year, Mr Musa was paid N157.5 million twice for the same purpose: “payment for transfer to NCDC for Emergency Lassa Fever Response.”
“(This) begs the question of why the beneficiary account did not read “NCDC”,” a civic advocacy group, BudgIT, wrote in a report it did on the payment discrepancies on the portal.
“Since government contracts are signed with companies, the expectation is that payments are likewise made to companies and not individuals,” it noted. “Where this is not the case, an explanation is required to ensure full transparency.”
1BULAM, MR. SADIQ ABUBAKAR671,996,049
2MUSA ADAMU MUSA471,493,235
3AJIJI, MR. BARDE YUSUF392,350,175.16
4ADAMA MOHAMMED DANLADI355,911,809.8
5MOHAMMED BADEGGI MOHAMMED175,015,182
6IBRAHIM, MR. Y MOHAMMED57,004,800
7DOROTHY NKIRUKA EZEOKPUBE40,652,000
9ADEGBITE, MRS. BOLA OLUWAFUNMILOLA34,904,912
10OSIBE, MR. EMMANUEL EJIKE18,881,200
11KESHIRO, MR. IBUKUN BONIFACE15,753,271.94
12SANNI ADENIYI, MRS. ADETORO OLUFUNMILAYO14,949,240
13AKWUH, MR. ISRAEL SHAIBU11,803,200
14ULOKO, MR. DANIEL SUNDAY11,448,000
15ALONGE, DR. OLUWATOYIN BOLADALE11,388,200
16GODWIN BROOKS ASUQUO10,836,800
17SHENKOYA, ESTHER ABIODUN10,399,429
18TOYE, MR. ADEDOKUN FEMI9,398,000
19ADAMU PAIKO MAMUD8,820,622
20OLOWU, DR. ROSEMARY OMOBOLANLE7,571,950
21SEMLEK, MRS. NAWOK RACHEL6,874,130
22IKE, MR. MADUABUCHI SUNDAY6,553,000
23ANYANWU, MR. CHINEDU LAWRENCE6,132,000
24ONOJA, MR. OCHE GEORGE5,907,600
25IDRIS, MR. ABDULLAHI5,376,000
By the provision of chapter 7, section 701 of the financial regulation of the country, the health ministry has contravened the law.
The provision compels agencies “to operate only three bank accounts as follows: salary account, overhead cost account and revenue account” as “no other bank account shall be allowed without the express approval of the Accountant-General.”
Section 713 of the same chapter further says that under no condition should personal money be paid into government’s bank account “nor shall any public money be paid into a private bank account.”
“An officer who pays public money into a private account is deemed to have done so with a fraudulent intention,” the section reads.
While the financial regulation targets addressing accountability and thrift, the health ministry went on doing the opposite with very scant recourse to probity and accountability.
The Accountant-General of the Federation, Ahmed Idris, under whose office the OTP is domiciled, has not responded to our FOI request seeking to know if he is aware of the suspicious payments made by government’s agencies into their employees’ personal accounts.
Two months after the suspicious payments were made, the health ministry, like other health ministries worldwide, began to grapple with the deadly coronavirus pandemic that grounded economies and halted daily activities.
The Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC), as of December 9, said the country had recorded 70,669 cases, 92 per cent of whom have been discharged, and 1,184 casualties.
474 new cases of #COVID19Nigeria;
1,184 deaths pic.twitter.com/0PJYG8VipU
– NCDC (@NCDCgov) December 9, 2020
With the number of tests still at 829,743 as of Thursday, according to the NCDC, Nigeria is nonetheless far from conquering the virus, especially because cases of infections have been on a steady rise in the past one week.
In the span of seven days, 2729 new infections were reported, raising high fear of a second wave in the country after weeks of low numbers.
This is further compounded by the nation’s economy in recession largely due to the pandemic and a dip in oil prices, its major source of foreign exchange earnings.
Pressed by the need to salvage the impending recession it had foresaw, in April, the Nigerian government opted for the international market to shop for lenders to shore up its revenue and tackle the virus by requesting a $7 billion loan.
This has thus far included the approvals of $288.5 million for Nigeria’s COVID-19 Response Support Programme by African Development Bank and another $114 million COVID-19 response loan for the country by the World Bank.
Meanwhile, as part of its resolve to ensure transparency, the Nigerian government, in December 2019, launched the open treasury portal, although the daily update on the portal has remained slow.
The portal is supposed to be a spreadsheet compilation of the daily expenses incurred by all ministries, departments and agencies (MDAs) on budget implementation, financial records, as well as transactions above certain thresholds.
But a series of discrepancies on the portal has raised concerns among accountability advocates.
In June, BudgIT said, between January and July 2019, it discovered that large sums were paid into private accounts, including several records with vague descriptions and other discrepancies on the portal.
This is the fourth part of a series of reports on how the nation’s ministries are breaching the law to make payments into private accounts of their employees and other private individuals.