Nigerian Senate probes mystery govt payments

A Nigerian parliamentary hearing has queried the transport minister for withdrawing millions of dollars in unspent government money, newspapers said on Friday.

The action by a Senate committee followed a disclosure by Transport Minister Diezani Allison-Madueke on Thursday that she paid 30,9-billion naira ($263-million) to contractors between December 26 and 31 last year.

The committee described the withdrawals as “hasty and lacking in transparency” and said they had contravened President Umaru Yar’Adua’s directive that unspent government money be returned to the National Treasury by the end of the year, the reports said.

The hearing questioned why the bulk of the money, 26,3-billion naira, was withdrawn on December 31, which was a public holiday in Nigeria.

Allison-Madueke said the withdrawals were made with the authorisation of the Accountant General to pay for approved projects.

It was not clear what action the Senate would recommend against the minister, the reports said.

In March, two ministers were sacked over a 300-million naira ($2,6-million) fraud complaint at the Health Ministry. They now face criminal charges.

Senator Iyabo Obasanjo-Bello, daughter of former president Olusegun Obasanjo, faces similar charges for accepting 10-million naira of the money.—Sapa-AFP

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