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imagesThe Senate has uncovered fraud to the tune of N2.5billion allegedly perpetrated by the Presidential Initiative on the North-east (PINE).

PINE was constituted by President Muhammadu Buhari to ensure the reconstruction and rehabilitation of north-east destroyed by Boko Haram.

The alleged fraud was uncovered by the Senate ad hoc committee, on Tuesday, December 6, during a public hearing on its probe into the alleged diversion and mismanagement of funds for the humanitarian crisis in the region, The Punch reports.

The public hearing, which was held at the National Assembly complex, Abuja also had representatives from north-east states as well as some federal government agencies officials.

Following the enquiries made by the senators, PINE couldn’t account for N2.5 billion it received for execution of intervention projects in the region.

Daily Independent reports that while the secretary of PINE, Umar Musa Gulani, claimed that the agency spent a whopping sum of N203million to clear taipa grass in Yobe state, stakeholders from the state led by the state’s commissioner for information, Alhaji Mohammed Lamin, disputed his claim, saying ‘no taipa grass was cleared in the state by any federal government agency.

Another claim by Gulani on the clearing of invasive plants species around river banks in the state at N253million by PINE was equally countered by the commissioner and other stakeholders from the state in addition to the N422.5million he claimed was spent on provision of temporary shelter (tents) to small families in the state.

Also dismissed was the claim by the presidential initiative that it had spent millions of naira on the renovation of about 18 schools completely wiped out by the Boko Haram insurgents in Yobe.

The commissioner, said only three schools have been renovated in the state by agencies outside the state, to which the State Universal Basic Education (SUBEB) have been directed by the governor to identify.

The findings displeased the lawmakers who directed Gulani to forward to them all documents, including photographs of claimed executed contracts, within one week.

The senators queried why a paltry sum of N2million was spent by the agency to feed the IDPs and faulted the donation of N50million to a non-governmental organisation as clearly stated in their statement of account.

A member of the committee, Senator Theodore Orji said: “The affected states said they were not aware of all the contracts executed by PINE; you people just decided to make money and that is why you decided to donate N50million for a conference organised by an NGO.”

Also speaking, Senator Ben Bruce, said when the committee visited some of IDP camps, many women cried out for provision of sanitary pads which he said could have been well taken care of if the N2.5billion given to PINE out of the budgeted N5billion, was well utilised.

In another development, the Senate has revealed that it will hold confirmation hearing over the appointment of Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) boss Ibrahim Magu.

Deputy senate president Ike Ekweremadu confirmed during plenary in the upper house of legislature on Wednesday, December 7 that the confirmation hearing for Magu will be held on Thursday, December 8.

The confirmation of Magu, when carried out tomorrow, comes over a year after he was installed in acting capacity by President Muhammadu Buhari in 2015.

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