The former Minister of Health, Prof. Onyebuchi Chukwu, has denied allegation that he diverted N300m meant for medical equipment in Zamfara to Enugu state, he described Senator Kabiru Marafa, representing Zamfara Central, who allegedly accused him as a blatant liar.
He added that Senator Marafa’s claim is mischievous, baseless and an attempt to score political point after failing woefully in his 8 years as a senator.
It would be recalled that Senator Marafa had at plenary, accused the former Minister of conniving with the then Permanent Secretary in his ministry to divert N300 million constituency project fund meant for the procurement of equipment for the Federal Medical Centre (FMC), Gusau, to his alleged home state of Enugu.
Prof. Chukwu, who wondered why neither Senator Marafa nor the current Minister of Health had never approached him for his explanations on the issue, accused Senator Marafa of being mischievous and playing to the gallery.
According to the Minister, “What Nigerians should be asking Distinguished Senator Marafa is why it has taken him till the end of his 8-year career in the senate to raise the matter in the melodramatic manner he did.
“Senator Marafa was merely playing politics to hoodwink his constituents who are probably demanding for accountability from their representatives given the unfortunate turn of events in Zamfara State.”
Prof. noted that he is not from Enugu State, decried being drawn into the insidious politics of ethnicity by an outgoing senator who was desperate to score cheap political points to burnish his image.
In a statement by his former Special Assistant on Media and ommunication, Dan Nwomeh, Prof. Chukwu explained that, based on the Public procurement Act of 2007, parastatals and agencies awarded contracts within their
approval thresholds, adding that: “But where the contract value was above the limit set for them, they were duty-bound to send it to the Ministerial Tenders Board, which in turn sent the contracts above its approval threshold to the Federal Executive Council (FEC).”
Giving insight into what actually transpired, Prof. Chukwu recalled how the Director General of the Budget Office wrote a letter to the Federal Ministry of Health in December 2013, quoting a letter earlier written to him by Senator Marafa where he alleged that the ministry had refused to release the said fund.
Prof. Chukwu said he promptly minuted the letter to the Permanent Secretary and the Director of Finance and Accounts who stated that there was no such fund with the ministry, while producing the schedule of approved projects and funds released from the Office of the Accountant General of the Federation as evidence.
He said that he consequently wrote back to the Director General of Budget Office in March 2014, informing him of the situation.
“It was apparently this misleading letter from the Director General of the
Budget Office that Senator Marafa had been relying on for his unsubstantiated claims”, he said.
He advised Marafa to find out from other MDAs how they secured the release of their approved funds for constituency projects at the time, citing the Federal Medical Centre (FMC), Owerri, which implemented a constituency project during the same period as the Federal Medical Centre Gusau which he said traced a similar approved fund to the Office of the Ministry of Special Duties and Inter-governmental Affairs.
“Against this background, it is obvious that the Minister of Health had no powers to divert, and could not have diverted, the funds approved for an agency for another purpose.
“And if the same due process regime is still in place today, as I believe it does, there was no basis for the purported apology tendered by the current Minister of Health on behalf the Federal Ministry of Health, then under my watch, to Senator Marafa.”
On the alleged procurement of mosquito nets for Enugu State, Chukwu also denied that the Federal Ministry of Health did not at any time procured insecticide-treated mosquito nets for any single state in the country under his stewardship.
He said that nets were mainly sourced through two channels which did not involve the ministry in the procurement process- the Global Fund and the World Bank, respectively.