Inauguration: Row over ‘missing’ N500m

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Six days after the inauguration of President Muhammadu Buhari, some services amounting to about N500million have not been paid for.

The money was said to have been cornered by one of the members of the committee.

The unsettled bill has led to a blame game between the Office of the Secretary to the Government of the Federation and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

But the most affected are ushers and some traditional artistes engaged for the inauguration.

The over 150 ushers, mostly unemployed graduates, were stranded yesterday in Abuja with no one attending to them.

Investigation by our correspondent revealed that although about N2.7billion was voted for the  inauguration, it was not certain how much was actually disbursed to six to seven sub- committees by the Main Committee.

One of the mysterious debts was  N300million incurred by the inauguration committee on aviation-related expenditures.

It was gathered that although the money was released, a former political office holder offered to use it as an exit package and failed to remit to the relevant committee.

Those owed the N300million were shuttling between the SGF office and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs on Tuesday with the two units trading blames.

A reliable source, who spoke in confidence, said: “We do not know the whereabouts of over N500million meant to settle some bills. Some members of the inauguration committee have bolted away with it.

“In fact out of the N500million, there is an embarrassing debt of about N300million which is yet to be settled. The aviation-related expenses had to do with the movement of facilities for visiting Heads of State and foreign dignitaries.

“We are busy shuttling between the Office of the SGF and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs with no one claming responsibility.

“If the government scrutinizes the records of other sub-committees, more dirty deals will be uncovered. Some inauguration committee members took advantage of the outgoing administration to divert public funds.”

One of the officials involved in the inauguration said most ushers have not been paid their stipends.

“We engaged over 150 ushers, especially unemployed graduates and married women, but there is no money to pay them. We had votes for the payment of the stipends but some officials diverted same.

“The ushers are stranded, they do not know who to contact for their stipends. Those who recruited them have left office.”

One of the ushers said: “It is sad that we stayed under the scorching sun for hours without being paid our stipends. This is just unfortunate.

“We want the new administration to look into the diversion of stipends meant for innocent citizens like us.”

Another usher said: “The organizers promised to sew three different dresses for us but they ended up providing one.

“Even with a dress, our size was not taken into consideration by those contracted. Some dresses were sewn without headgear. The whole thing was a rip-off.”

Checks revealed that the inauguration committee did not leave any report behind before winding up its activities abruptly.

Another source said: “The only favour the administration of President Buhari can do this nation is to hold all the civil servants in the Main Committee and sub-committees responsible for the disbursement of the votes for the inauguration.

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