- Photo: Hon Buba (right) during the Hose Committee on Foreign Affairs sitting *
The House Committee on Foreign Affairs, on Wednesday, summoned the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Mr Geoffrey Onyeama, to appear before it on a future date over allegations bordering on financial infractions in the ministry.
The committee, during the meeting, also voted to investigate spendings on allocations for rents and education supplements at the nation’s missions abroad in the last ten years.
The development followed two separate motions moved independently by Hon. Ahmed Jaha and Hon. Mukhtar Ahmed, which were seconded by Hon. Miriam Onuoha and Hon. Onanuga Adewunmi Oriyomi during the interactive meeting held by the Committee to, alongside the management of the ministry, consider reasons for the amendment the ministry is seeking on the 2022 Appropriations Act.
Earlier in his opening remarks, Chairman of the Committee, Rt. Hon. ( Dr.) Yusuf Buba, said the meeting became necessary for the committee to request detailed explanations on the amendment being sought.
He said the committee had discovered that funds had been allocated for mission buildings and staff accommodations where most of those embassies have in place adequate provisions for same; and that school fees or education supplements have also been allocated in respect of children/wards of foreign service officers in English-speaking host countries where public schools are free.
Continuing, the committee chairman said: “There is need at this point to clearly state that all funds the committee re-appropriated from such sub-heads as rents and school fees/education supplement in the 2022 Appropriations Act became necessary because the committee discovered that accommodation for office space and living quarters exist in places like Accra, Ghana, and other Missions where these funds have been allocated.
” It is, therefore, against the law for the ministry or anyone else for that matter to transfer and expend funds under one sub-head to another sub-head without virement or corrigendum.
“Please, see Section 2 of the 2022 Appropriations Act, which states, inter alia: “All amounts appropriated under this Act shall be released from the consolidated revenue fund of the Federation only for the purpose specified in the schedule to this Act”.
“Section 3 of the Act also provides that: “In the event that the implementation of any of the projects intended to be undertaken under this Act cannot be completed without virement, such virement shall only be effected with the prior approval of the National Assembly.
“And also Section 4 of the Act Provides that: “ Any error in the schedule to this Act that may hinder the implementation of projects and programs in the Ministries, Departments, and Agencies may be corrected through a corrigendum issued by the National Assembly, provided that the total sum for the project or the program is not affected.”
According to the lawmaker representing the Gombi/ Hong of Adamawa State, the committee discovered that this breach of the Appropriations Act has been ongoing for several years, e.g in 2019 alone, the Sum of N1, 089,966,372, was spent on rent of Chancery where such Chancery exists. In 2020 N276,546,695, was spent for the same purpose while in 2021 N240,296,573 was also spent.
At the venue of the meeting, committee members had in very loud voices condemned what they observed was unbecoming of the management of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, who for no reasons and without any form of communication, they said, continuously fail to honour the invitations of the committee.
Members were unanimous in their resolve to evoke the full wrath of the law on the minister if he fails to honour the summons of the committee.