Reps raise alarm over another N60m grass-cutting proposal and others

Reps raise alarm over another N60m grass-cutting proposal and others

According to reports, the House of Representatives on Tuesday decried the N60 million provided by the Presidential Committee on North East Initiative in the 2017 Budget for weeding in communities ravaged by insurgency.

The amount is for contracts to “cut shrubs, grasses and trees” along Maiduguri-Bama Road.

A similar contract is still the source of acrimony between the Executive and the Legislature.

The Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Babachir Lawal, was accused of influencing a grass cutting contract to the tune of N230 million for a company in which he is alleged to have interest.

Lawal has insisted that he divested his interest in the company months before his appointment as SGF.

The House Committee on Internally Displaced Persons picked out the figure for the new contract of N60 million when the PCNI appeared before it to defend its N45 billion budget for humanitarian assistance, rehabilitation and resettlement of displaced villagers.

The Chairman of the committee, Sani Zoro, and other members expressed displeasure over the provision.

Zoro said: “You cannot 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 N60 million.

“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.”

Zoro challenged the PCNI to furnish the committee with its mandate, saying: “You have N184 million for screening programme for humanitarian activities.

“What does that mean?

“There is N150 million on advocacy and early warning system and N165 million for conflict management.

“You are going to deliver security equipment for N200 million.

“What type of security equipment?

“Then another N2.5 billion 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 has its own budget already.

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

A member of the committee, Adamu Kamale, said that the N45 billion budgeted for the North East was inadequate, but decried the provision of N8.4 billion out of the money for military operations.

Kamale argued that there was no justification for the proposal for the military in the budget.

He said: “PCNI is not a military agency.

“This N8.4 billion should be converted to rehabilitation of burnt houses and schools.

“I am an IDP, so I know where it pains. N5 billion 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.”

Another member, Istifanus-Dung Gyang, informed the committee that the Federal Government’s total commitment to the North East in 2017 was “over N800 billion”.

Gyang explained that the money was domiciled in the various Ministries, Departments and Agencies of government for the purpose of developing the region.

He said: “So, your role as PCNI is recovery.

“You come in after the military have completed their own role and they have their budget.”

However, the Vice-Chairman of the PCNI, Tijjani Tumsah, explained that the budget was planned after due consultation with the military.

Tumsah said that rehabilitation was the key responsibility of the PCNI as it could not be achieved if security aspect was left out.

Tumsah said that the government would not take the risk of returning the IDPs to their villages without adequate security cover.

He said: “The IDPs are in camps in locations where they are safe; so, returning them home means that there is security for them.

“Security remains a major issue in rehabilitation.

“There are mines everywhere.

“The military will have to go in there to remove them.”

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