Reps express shock at N60m allocation for grass cutting in N’East

by Azeez Adeniyi

Members of the House of Representatives on Tuesday probed the N60 million budgeted by the Presidential Committee on North-East Initiative to cut grasses in communities affected by Boko Haram insurgency in the North East.

This comes after the Senate had indicted Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Babachir Lawal of fraud in the N200m awarded by him for a similar project.

The PCNI appeared before the House Committee on Internally Displaced Persons to defend its N45bn budget for the rehabilitation of displaced persons in the North.

According to the PCNI, the budgeted N60m cover contracts to cut “shrubs, grasses and trees” along the Maiduguri-Mama Road only.

Chairman of the committee, Sani Zoro expressed shock at the amount, stating that the military can be contracted for the project.

“You can’t travel this same way (awarding contracts on grasses) again; it is not acceptable.

“Why can’t you assign this duty to the military to do it for you? They can use their personnel to clear the grasses and you can drop this idea of awarding contracts with N60m,” Zoro said.

Zoro also said the bulk of the N45bn was allocated for the procurement of

equipment for military services, instead of providing shelter, food, hospitals and schools for displaced persons.

“Your duty, from what we understand, is to provide succour for the displaced persons. These people are traumatised and they need urgent basic amenities as they return home.

“Rehabilitation has to do with their survival as human beings first,” he added.

Zoro added, “Maybe, you must first give us the mandate of the PCNI. You have N184m for screening programme for humanitarian activities. What does that mean?

“There is N150m on advocacy and early warning system and N165m for conflict management.

“You are going to deliver security equipment for N200m. What type of security equipment? Then another N2.5bn for security outfits.

“Are you telling us that part of your role is to fund the operations of the military in the North-East? The military have their own budget already.

“Why are you not talking about food, shelter, medical care and schools for these IDPs?”

Adamu Kamale, a lawmaker from Adamawa Star said there was no justification for the N8.4bn going to the military.

He added, “The PCNI is not a military agency. This N8.4bn should be converted to rehabilitation of burnt houses and schools.

“I am an IDP; so, I know where it pains. N5bn out of the money can rehabilitate up to 50 per cent of the houses.

“Again, you are just duplicating so many things in this budget. Our people back home will not forgive us if we pass this budget like this.”

Vice-Chairman of the PCNI, Tijjani Tumsah however said rehabilitation of the IDPs cannot be achieved if the security aspect is neglected.

He said the IDPs cannot resettle in their homes without proper security.

“Security remains a major issue in rehabilitation. There are mines everywhere. The military will have to go in there to remove them,” he added.

The committee however stopped the approval of the budget pending further probing.

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