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‘I’m not anyone’s slave’, how Women Affairs’ Minister tackled Lawmakers at National Assembly

A mild drama unfolded at the House of Representatives as the Committee on Women’s Affairs and Social Development grilled the Minister of Women Affairs, Uju…..READ THE FULL ORIGINAL ARTICLE HERE▶▶

A mild drama unfolded at the House of Representatives as the Committee on Women’s Affairs and Social Development grilled the Minister of Women Affairs, Uju Kennedy-Ohaneye, over the non-payment of N1.5 billion to contractors after the release of funds for the purpose.

The committee was investigating the alleged diversion of the N1.5bn meant for the payment of contractors after it received a petition from the contractors over non-payment for contracts they executed for the ministry.
The committee had at its last sitting summoned the minister to appear before it to explain the rationale behind the non-payment.
The committee also ordered the stoppage of all 2024 contract processes by the Ministry of Women’s Affairs until the whereabouts of the money for the said contracts are determined.

Chairperson of the committee, Rep Kafilat Ogbara, at the resumed hearing, said the committee’s investigative hearing was not a witch-hunt but to unravel the truth behind the matter.

When asked why the contractors were not paid their money, the minister said funds were not released to the ministry, but the committee faulted her claim, saying the Director Finance and Accounts had earlier confirmed the release of funds for contracts.

On his part, the Director of Finance and Accounts, Aloy Ifeakandu, said only 25 per cent of the contract sum was released to the ministry.

The committee, while going through the documents submitted by the ministry, queried the N45m said to have been expended in organising New Year celebration for children and another N20m to buy soap and sanitary pads for New Year babies.

The committee also raised eyebrows over the N1.5m she said she spent on fuelling vehicles on a trip to Anambra State, but the minister justified the expenditure.

As the panel dug further into other alleged infractions by the ministry, it became a shouting match between the minister and the panel, as she kept on raising her voice, accusing the committee of not being given a fair hearing.

The panel’s Chairman, Kafilat, who described the attitude of the minister as rude and insulting to the parliament, adjourned the hearing indefinitely.

She said the committee would report to the house that the minister was uncooperative and had no regard for the parliament.

Below is the word-for-word of what played out between the minister and the House of Representatives members:

LAWMAKER: Honorable minister and your team, Mr. DFA, I am at a loss because fortunately, I attended the last meeting. And one of the reasons why we took you on Oat was to get the truth from you, but today you have deviated. You have deviated ,because you did say, yes, there was a release of money and you took instruction from the principal.

And there and then, I confronted the permanent secretary. He said he was not in the know. And I am still making my statement that you are running the ministry with your minister.

MINISTER: I take exception to that. I don’t want this type of allegation.

LAWMAKER: Please don’t interrupt honourable member. Please let her finish

MINISTER: I am no slave to anybody. I don’t want it. She should withdraw that statement about me.

LAWMAKER: I am repeating what. I confronted the Permanent Secretary and the DFA. Last week Thursday, I’m still alive talking, you did say what they approved to you. I said Mr. Perm Sec what happened? You are not in the know. I said look, I was once twice, Commissioner in my state, and the accounting officer is the permanent secretary, please, you people should work with the Permanent Secretary. From the revelations coming out, it is one man show you people are doing.

MINISTER: She just made an allegation against me and you people said I should keep quiet? No fairness here. It’s a trap. It’s a trap, but I’m not going to jump into it. I’m not going to jump into the trap. I’ve stolen nothing. I have never tampered with anything, that’s why I’m not afraid of anybody.

LAWMAKER: Please Honourable minister, we care working with records.

MINISTER: On the issue of the contracts, even the ones given while I was there, they have not been paid. So there is no partiality here. Except that we are underfunded. We don’t have money. They have not been paid. That’s why we moved the ongoing project to this year’s budget so that they will be able to pay them.

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Baba Voss

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