Sunday, 18 October 2015

Civic group has petitioned Okonjo-Iweala’s

Nigerian group petitions GAVI, seeks suspension of Okonjo-Iweala’s appointment

A Nigerian civic group has petitioned the Global Alliance for Vaccine and Immunization, GAVI, requesting that the organization suspend the recent appointment of Nigeria’s immediate past Minister of Finance, Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, as chairperson of its Board of Directors.

In the petition signed by its chairman, Olanrewaju Suraju, the Civil Society Network Against Corruption, CSNAC, said its call for a review of Mrs. Okonjo-Iweala’s appointment was based on the circumstances surrounding the suspicious refund of $2.2 million paid by Nigeria to GAVI.

While noting that the appointment of the former minister as chairperson of the Board of Directors of GAVI brings to fore a case of conflict of interest in the refund of the money, the group noted that, “the appointment also shows that she was being rewarded for her “loyalty” to the organisation at the detriment of her country.”

The refund made without consultation with the Ministry of Health also exposes the gross abuse of office by the former minister, according to the group.

PREMIUM TIMES had reported how GAVI rewarded Mrs. Okonjo-Iweala after she worked against Nigeria’s interest in a controversial refund of a $2.2 million allegedly mismanaged by Nigerian officials.

“In view of the above, CSNAC is therefore by this petition, requesting that the recent appointment of Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala as chairperson of the Board of Directors be reviewed and suspended until all the spurious allegations against Nigeria under this audit are proven by GAVI and the circumstances surrounding the suspicious and unpatriotic refund of the $2.2m are resolved,” Mr. Suraju said.

Giving its narration in the petition, the group said that, “In the wake of media reports of indictment by the Global Alliance for Vaccine and Immunization (GAVI) against the Federal Government of Nigeria over alleged misuse of funds through the Federal Ministry of Health and National Primary Health Care Development Agency (NPHCDA) for the purpose of children vaccination in the country, we petitioned the NPHCDA to the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), demanding a thorough investigation into the allegations that has globally dented the image of the county.

“Following our petition on this matter and reportage of same by local and international news media, we received a response, accompanied with evidences, from the National Primary Health Care Development Agency (NPHCDA), controverting claims that were contained in the GAVI’s Cash Program Audit (CPA).

“Through voluntary support of volunteers, partners and members of our network, we undertook independent investigation of the allegations contained in the CPA report and, confirmation of assertions and proof provided by NPHCDA. These included independent and unannounced visitation to site of incinerators in Borno, Adamawa, Gombe, Bauchi, Nasarawa, Niger, Kano, Kaduna by these volunteers. However, our investigations revealed findings at variance with basis of fraud allegations contained in the report of GAVI, through its Cash Program Audit (C.P.A) on cash grants allocated to Nigeria from 2011-2013.

“We also found a letter written by the New York office of UNICEF, a UN agency and an internationally reputed organisation, officially debunking claims in the GAVI report, as it concerns their transactions with NPHCDA under the contract. The Federal Inland Revenue Services did wrote to acknowledge receipt of taxes deducted by NPHCDA, as against position of GAVI. The Corporate Affairs Commission further provided evidence controverting malicious claims NPHCDA award of contract to fictitious and unregistered company, as contained in the CPA report.

“The Alliance further continued with its smear campaign of Nigeria by misinterpreting the Letter of Understanding dated October 17, 2014 written by the former Minister of Health Professor Onyebuchi Chukwu as an admission of guilt in the alleged mismanagement of $2.2m, whereas, he had demanded a joint post audit reconciliation of the disputed CPA report and also committed the government to refund any unused fund discovered after the joint reconciliation with GAVI.

“Our several requests to GAVI for evidence to corroborate the spurious allegations in its indicting report were rebuffed. Despite huge facts that emerged from our investigation and that of the EFCC, controverting GAVI’s claim to fraud in its dealings with Nigeria under the audited period, the immediate past Minister of Finance, Dr. Ngozi Okonjo Iweala, under a questionable manner, unprecedented in the history of the country, went ahead and discreetly refunded the controversial $2.2m to your organization without recourse to NPHCDA or the EFCC,” the petition read.