COVID-19: SERAP seeks probe of ‘missing billions’ in water ministry, agencies

The Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) has sent a Freedom of Information request to Nigeria's Minister of Water Resources,Mr.…

The Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) has sent a Freedom of Information request to Nigeria’s Minister of Water Resources,Mr. Suleiman Adamu, urging him to “clarify the action that his Ministry has taken to address and find the alleged billions of naira missing from the Ministry and its agencies, and if there is relevant admissible evidence of corruption and mismanagement, to refer the allegations to appropriate anti- corruption agencies for investigation and prosecution. “The non governmental organization is also urging the Minister to “ensure the full recovery of any missing public funds, revealed in the 2017 annual audited report by the Office of the Auditor-General of the Federation.”

In the FoI request dated 27 February 2021 and signed by SERAP deputy director Kolawole Oluwadare, the organization said: “Allegations of corruption and mismanagement in the Ministry and its agencies can cause serious harm to the socially and economically vulnerable. Satisfactorily addressing these allegations and recovering any missing public funds is a critical matter of public health, human rights, transparency and accountability. The COVID-19 crisis makes this action all the more urgent. ”

SERAP said: “Knowing how the Ministry has responded to the queries from the Auditor-General, and ensuring a thorough investigation and prosecution of these allegations would end impunity for corruption in the water sector, serve the public interest, as well as help to improve access of Nigerians to clean water and sanitation services.”

 “Millions of Nigerians continue to lack access to an improved water source and access to proper sanitation. Limited availability of water in public hospitals makes it difficult for health professionals and the public to wash their hands – restricting the ability of people to respond to COVID-19,” SERAP said.

“According to the Auditor-General’s Annual Report for 2017, Federal Ministry of Water Resources spent ₦ 343,957,350.60 without any documents. The Auditor-General is concerned that the money may be missing. The Ministry also reportedly spent ₦ 14,993,950.00 as advance cash to staff to buy store items and for services without due process.

“The Federal College of Freshwater Fisheries Technology, New Bussa, Niger State also reportedly spent ₦ 33,652,281.00 to train 170 unemployed youths and women between 10th and 11th November 2016 without due process and without any documents on the names and number of those trained. There was no evidence to justify the spending,” the letter read in part.