Secretary to the State Government and Chairman, Taskforce on Covid-19, Ahmed Ibrahim Matane.

By Ibrahim Akawu

Niger state government says it has spent N75 million for fumigation and another N85 million to improve power supply during the covid-19 lockdown.

The officials of the state covid-19 taskforce made the revelation at the Niger State House of Assembly complex during an investigative hearing with House adhoc committee on covid-19.

The commissioner of Environment, Mohammed Tanko Zakari said the N75 million he accessed was used to cover cost of chemicals, equipment, manpower and logistics.

He said the funds were approved by the governor, Abubakar Sani Bello through a memo written by the ministry.

The commissioner further disclosed that the entire state was fumigated in the period under review.

Similarly, the Secretary to the State Government, Ahmed Ibrahim Matane who is also the state taskforce chairman told legislators that N80 million was expended to get AEDC increase electricity supply from three hours to nine hours daily.

He said that the state government through the deputy governor had been negotiating with the AEDC on improve power supply, the N80 million spent on that purpose did not also form part of the covid-19 taskforce expenses.

However, members of the House of Assembly ad-hoc committee investigating activities of the state task force on COVID-19 have expressed displeasure over lack of tidiness and coherence in the presentation of covid-19 taskforce team.

The legislators, who took turns to chide the chairman of the state taskforce, Ahmed Ibrahim Matane and his members, said they were disappointed and depressed with the discrepancies and inconsistencies of the presentations amongst the various members of the committee.

Member representing Wushishi constituency, Hon Abdullahi Mohammad Lokogoma, who was visibly not happy, ordered the taskforce members to go back and prepare properly and return back to the house.

He expressed dismay that the taskforce members were saying different things on the same subject at the same time. He advised the chairman of the taskforce committee to go and coordinate his team and come back with documentary evidence to support their claims.

The chairman of the committee, Hon Malik Madaki Bosso said the mandate given to them by the resolution of the house was to ascertain whether public funds spent during the taskforce activities were properly utilized.

He said the SSG initially told them only N795, 1500 million was expended by his committee but now changed it to N818 million. He explained further that despite the fact that the taskforce chairman claimed initially that no member of the committee enjoy any allowances, his recent statement that Duty Travelling Allowance DTA, was paid to members was worrisome.

He said the committee members which comprises of about eight commissioners worked at variance. “For example, the commissioner for environment, who is a member of the committee said he raised a memo to the governor to fumigate the entire state at N75 million. And he said the money was outside to the one covid-19 taskforce claimed to have spent. So, how can one reconcile all this”, he bemoaned.

He said the items in the piece of paper submitted by the taskforce committee containing brief of expenses incurred was in variance with what was heard from the members. He said the legislators were expecting the taskforce to furnish it with documents supporting their claims.

Hon. Malik Madaki Bosso disclosed that members of the house committee will embark on an oversight visits to see things for themselves before presenting their report.

This, he said was because the claim by the commissioner for environment that the entire state was fumigated needed to be confirmed.

He disclosed that the task given to them by the resolution of the house was not meant to witch hunt or embarrass anybody but to ascertain how public funds were used for the benefit of the people and which was within their constitutional powers.

Speaking to journalists at the Assembly complex, the SSG said the money spent by the committee was approved in the budget.

He explained that the ministries that comprised the committee have an approved emergency funds and which was used in the period under investigation.

He however agreed with the legislators on the submission of documents to support their claims and which he assured that will be done. He said approvals, procurement receipts and other documents will be submitted.

He said there was need for accountability and transparency and the committee investigation was a welcome development. He however reiterated that the state had not received a dime from the federal government.

He explained further that the taskforce activity was a continuous one and additional expenses were incurred and that was the reason the cost kept on rising. He said the initial figure of N795 million was contained in the interim report and not the final since the covid-19 hasn’t yet ended

He said he will continue to interface with the legislature as it was necessary to engender accountability and transparency in terms of income and expenditures of government.