N438m Contract: CCB Quizzes Interior Minister Today
The Minister of Interior, Olubunmi Tunji-Ojo will today appear before the Code of Conduct Bureau (CCB) over the involvement of a company he co-founded in a N438 million contract by the Ministry of Humanitarian Affairs and Poverty Alleviation.
New Planet Projects, which belongs to the minister, was reported to have benefited from a contract at the cost of N438 million.
A leaked document had revealed that the firm received the fund as payment for “consultancy fees” from the humanitarian ministry, which has been enmeshed in several scandals, resulting in the suspension of the minister, Dr. Betta Edu, and the coordinator of the National Social Investment Programme Agency (NSIPA), Halima Shehu.
The interior minister had since denied any wrongdoing, saying he had not been involved in the affairs of the company.
He had said in an interview on Channels Television that he ceased to be a director of New Planet Projects since 2019.
“Did the company go through due process? If the answer is yes, fantastic. If it didn’t, let the government take charge of it. I’m not involved, I’ve not been involved in the affairs of the company in the last five years. To me, this issue is just a diversion, it’s a non-issue for me. I’m not a director in the company. If the company is found wanting, definitely the law will take its course,” he had stated.
However, the CBB, in a letter to Tunji-Ojo, asked him to appear before the Bureau today at its headquarters situated at the Federal Secretariat Complex, Abuja.
The letter was signed by the Director of Investigation and Monitoring, Gwimi S.P., on behalf of the Bureau’s Chairman, Murtala Aliyu.
“The Bureau is investigating a case of alleged breach of the Code of Conduct for Public Officers in which your name featured prominently. Consequently, you are invited for an interview scheduled as follows:
“Date: Tuesday, 16th January, 2024. Time: 1100hrs prompt. Venue: CCB Headquarters on 5th Floor, Annex III, Phase I, Federal Secretariat Complex, Abuja.
“This invitation is pursuant to the mandate and powers of the Bureau as enshrined in the Third Schedule, Part I, Paragraph 3 (e) to the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria as amended. Please be properly guided,” the letter read.
In another statement yesterday, the Head of the Press and Public Relations Department of the CCB, Veronica Kato, confirmed that the Bureau had commenced an investigation into the alleged breach of the Code of Conduct for Public Officers by Tunji-Ojo.
“It can be recalled that the minister has been in the news recently for an alleged breach of the Code of Conduct for Public Officers, particularly, a conflict of interest in the execution of a contract awarded to a company belonging to the Minister by the suspended Minister of Humanitarian Affairs”, she said.
Meanwhile, the Young Progressives Party (YPP) had on Sunday asked President Bola Ahmed Tinubu to suspend Tunji-Ojo over the scandal.
The YPP, in a petition addressed to Tinubu and signed by its National Chairman, Emmanuel Bishop Amakiri, alleged that Tunji-Ojo lacks the integrity to continue to be in office while the investigation into the allegations against him goes on.
The letter was copied to the National Assembly, the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) and the Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Commission (ICPC).
The party described the allegations as “heavy and huge”.
The YPP threatened a protest march on Thursday to press home its demand for the minister’s suspension.
Last week Tuesday, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) had equally demanded the immediate suspension of the interior minister over the controversy surrounding the contract award.
“Nigerians are appalled by the lame excuse by Olubunmi Tunji-Ojo in claiming that he has no interest in the company despite his confession of owning huge shares in the firm; a channel through which he allegedly benefitted immensely from the said fraudulent consultancy fee payment.
“The PDP challenges the interior minister to publish the details of the due process certification documents, the scope of job, the experts and modules used as well as particulars of the 11 million Nigerian households claimed to have been verified within a space of one month”, a statement by its National Publicity Secretary, Debo Ologunagba.
The opposition party’s position aligned with that of a prominent lawyer, social critic, and senior analyst at the Tony Blair Foundation for Global Change, Audu Bulama Bukarti, who said the interior minister should be suspended and investigated.
According to Mr. Bukarti, during his appearance on Channels TV last week Monday, Mr. Tunji-Ojo inadvertently revealed more than he intended. “He admitted to owning New Planet Project Ltd and acknowledged his wife’s role as a director. Furthermore, Olubunmi Tunji-Ojo confirmed that the alleged N438m was transferred from the Ministry of Humanitarian Affairs to the company.