One of the leading ministers in the President Muhammadu Buhari regime and spokesman of his administration, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, is now in hot soup.
Mohammed, who is the minister of information, according to Sahara Reporters, had written to the National Broadcasting Commission (NBC), a parastatal under his ministry, requesting it to release N13m as a loan to the ministry to enable him and his team undertake an urgent trip to China.
Mohammed is billed to travel to the Asian country on Sunday, May 15. The minister confirmed to Sahara Reporters that his ministry wrote the letter but declined further comments.
An auditor in one of the federal parastatals has, however, told METROWATCH, under anonymity, that the minister’s letter to the NBC is in breach of extant rules of federal civil service.
He said a Federal government circular on the matter is very clear on the relationship between a minister and parastatals under his ministry.
He said the circular forbids a minister from soliciting for money from the latter in whatever guise.
He added that the circular refers to the act as ‘undue interference’, with operations of the parastatal, which is expressly not allowed.
But in a spirited defence of the minister, an official of the Ministry of Information and Culture, Mr. Peter Dama, who is the Director of Information and Protocol, expressed regret that a letter he did to the NBC’s acting director-general was leaked to the press.
He said the fund being asked for was a loan that the ministry would repay when its allocation gets to it.
Full text of Dama’s letter of defence of the minister read…
“My attention has been drawn to a letter I endorsed to the Ag. Director General, National Broadcasting Commission requesting for a loan of N13,120,470.00 to cover tickets and travel expenses of a five-member delegation being led by the Honourable Minister of Information and Culture to Beijing, China, which was mischievously leaked to the social media by staff of National Broadcasting Commission.
2. The loan being requested for is for the Ministry to meet up its obligations to enable the Minister and members of his delegation attend an all important Conference on Tourism for Development in China, that is meant to benefit this country.
3. The loan is not meant for the Honourable Minister alone as personal expenses, but for the expenses of all members of the delegation.
4. The Conference, which is being organized by the United Nations World Tourism Organisation in conjunction with the Government of the People’s Republic of China, under the overall theme “Tourism for Peace and Development,” will feature amongst others discussions on major issues for sustainable development including the contribution of Tourism to poverty reduction and peace.
5. The Conference will also feature discussion on major issues that have direct bearing on Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), poverty alleviation through Tourism and the linkage between Tourism peace at the National and International levels.
6. China on this occasion as chair of G20 will also host the 7th T20 Ministers meeting under the theme “Sustainable Tourism, An Effective Tool for Inclusive Development.”
7. The Conference is a veritable platform to develop synergy and partnership with players in the global Tourism Industry which will go a long way in boosting our drive to diversify the Nigerian economy.
8. It is also important to note that the Minister and his delegation were to have discussion in China with Set Top Box Manufacturers, who are meant to establish manufacturing factories in Nigeria for these boxes for our digital broadcasting processes, rather than the current situation in which the boxes are being imported. This is meant to conserve our foreign exchange and to also create avenue for job creation for our citizens.
9. From the foregoing, it is clear that the Conference is an all important gathering that will benefit Nigeria, contribute towards diversification of its revenue base and create employment opportunities for Nigerians.
10. Again, it is not unusual for an agency under the Ministry to assist in order to carry out government functions. Moreover, the request was discussed with the Ag. Director General NBC, who agreed to assist with the loan before the letter was written. It is therefore shocking to find out that an internal memorandum from the Ministry could be leaked out to the social media by saboteurs in order to embarrass the government.
11. Please note, multiple letters were not written to government agencies as alleged, we only wrote to NBC after discussing with the Ag. DG. Payments were to be effected if the fund were loaned out based on extant financial regulations. There is nothing wrong with the request of the Ministry to meet up with an important assignment meant to benefit the country.
12. Finally, the loan that was requested for is NOT meant for Lai Mohammed as being imputed but for the entire five members of the delegation to cover for tickets, travel allowances and other incidentals”.