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Reps demand refund of N85bn COVID-19 funds from Industry, Health Ministries



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The House of Representatives Public Accounts Committee (PAC) on Thursday issued severe directives in response to missing COVID-19 intervention funds.

Facing the committee’s investigative hearing, both the Federal Ministry of Industry, Trade and Investments and the Ministry of Health fell under scrutiny for absent officials and undelivered projects.

The Committee directed the Federal Ministry of Industry, Trade and Investments (FMITI) to return a staggering N75 billion allocated to it as COVID-19 intervention funds. The committee’s stern action also targeted the Ministry of Health, demanding the return of another N10 billion released for the production of a COVID-19 vaccine.

Bassey Akiba, a member of the Labour Party from Cross River State, moved a motion, which was unanimously approved by the committee, prompting the demand for the funds’ return.

In his earlier remark, the chairman of the committee, Bamidele Salam (PDP, Osun State), lamented that despite the series of invitations extended to the ministry, its officials failed to show up.

Salam said, “The Federal Ministry of Trade, Industries and Investments got the sum of N75bn as COVID-19 intervention funds. The Public Account Committee has sent invitations to the Ministry of Trade, Industries and Investments three times, and none of the invitations was honoured.

READ ALSO:Reps begin probe into alleged mismanagement of COVID-19 funds

“The federal ministry of trade was to make their appearance yesterday (Wednesday). That was the last opportunity given to them and there was no such appearance. N75bn was appropriated to them.

“The former Permanent Secretary and the current Permanent Secretary are affected by this motion to refund the sum of N75bn to the Federal Government as COVID-19 intervention funds which as far as we are concerned, has not been expended.”

The committee’s action raises serious questions about the accountability and transparency surrounding the utilization of COVID-19 funds in Nigeria. The non-appearance of ministry officials further fuels concerns about potential mismanagement or misappropriation of the funds.

The N75 billion allocated to FMITI was intended for supporting Small and Medium-sized Enterprises (SMEs) during the pandemic. However, the committee’s demand suggests doubts about the effectiveness of the ministry’s intervention programs and the disbursement of funds.

The N10 billion earmarked for the Ministry of Health’s COVID-19 vaccine production project also faces scrutiny. The committee’s demand for the funds’ return could indicate a lack of progress or even abandoned efforts in the vaccine development initiative.

The House Committee’s actions signal a renewed determination to hold government agencies accountable for the disbursement and utilization of public funds, particularly during the pandemic. The demand for the return of N85 billion sends a strong message that mismanagement and non-transparency will not be tolerated.

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