Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Graft: Health Minister, Deputy Forced to Resign

Graft: Health Minister, Deputy Forced to Resign
• Grange, Aduku, Iyabo Obasanjo, Ojomo face arrest
From Juliana Taiwo in Abuja, 03.26.2008

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The Minister of Health, Prof. Adenike Grange, and the Minister of State for Health, Mr. Gabriel Aduku, have been forced to resign from their positions by President Umaru Musa Yar’Adua following allegations of graft.
They are both expected to be arrested today by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) preparatory to their prosecution.
The chairman of the Senate Committee on Health, Dr. Iyabo Obasanjo-Bello – daughter of former president Olus-egun Obasanjo – and her House of Representatives counterpart, Dr. Alaba Ojomo Oladoyinbo, are also expected to be arrested today by the anti-graft body in preparation for prosecution.
Both legislators were reportedly indicted in the EFCC investigations into the allegations of graft in the Ministry of Health.
A disgruntled staff in the Federal Ministry of Health, who was said to have felt cheated in the sharing of a N300 million Christmas bonus last month, had petitioned the EFCC on financial impropriety in the ministry.
It was later discovered that a lot of money had gone out of the system through rushed contracts and a rash of conferences, thought to be a clever way of spending the unspent budget and avoiding returning it to the treasury as directed by the President.
Special Adviser to the President on Communications, Mr. Olusegun Adeniyi, told State House correspondents yesterday that the President had accepted the resignations of the ministers.
THISDAY had gathered from a source last weekend that Grange, a former director of the Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunisation (GAVI) who was among those named ministers in July 2007, was given the option of voluntary resignation or sack by President Yar’Adua.
Grange, who wore a navy blue skirt suit with a lemon green flowered scarf round her neck, walked briskly alongside Aduku, who wore a peach colour babanriga with a red cap to match, out of the Villa after dropping their resignation letters.
While Aduku smiled and waved to the pressmen, Grange tried to keep a straight face, clutching her black handbag tightly.
Adeniyi said both ministers were leaving the Federal Executive Council (FEC) following charges of corruption brought against them by the EFCC.
“It is expected that without the burden of their ministerial duties, they will be better placed to respond to the charges against them.
“President Yar’Adua has also ordered the Head of the Civil Service of the Federation, Mr. Ebele Okeke, to direct that the Permanent Secretary in the Federal Ministry of Health, Prof. Simon Ogamdi, the Director of Administration, Dr. H.B. Oyedepo and the Director of Finance, Hanafi Muh-ammed, who participated in the subversion of his directive on the return of unspent Budget 2007 funds to the Treasury should proceed on immediate suspension in accordance with extant civil service rules pending further disciplinary action by government.
“Another Director, Mr. M.S. Hamid, a Chief Accountant, Abdulrahaman Ambali, a Principal Administrative Officer, Mr. Donald Ekanem, a Principal Transport Officer, Mr. Donatus Iyang and seven other civil servants in the Ministry were also affected by the suspension order.
“The Minister of Labour, Dr. Hassan Muhammad Lawal, is to oversee the affairs of the Federal Ministry of Health until further notice,” Adeniyi said.
An aide to Grange had disclosed that the President felt betrayed by her actions of not obeying the directive to return all unspent budget to the treasury.
The source said Yar’Adua had refused to buy her excuse that she was misled by the civil servants she worked with.
The N300 million that was to be returned to the treasury from the 2007 budget was said to have been converted to Christmas bonuses.
Some members of the National Assembly are said to have recieved N10 million each.
The source said: "The money was meant for staff as end of year bonuses. The lowest staff on grade level 04 was expected to be given N175,000. Deputy directors and directors were to receive N2.5 million and N3.5 million respectively.
"But an assistant director decided to slash the money to N40,000 for the lowest staff, that is grade level 04. Those on grade level 13 who were supposed to receive N500,000 were however given something far less. But that of the directors were not touched.
"About N195 million remained unutilised and was passed on to those on the top, who reportedly pinched a little and directed that the money be distributed among the staff of the ministry.
"The aggrieved staff from the department of finance who saw the approval and sharing formula petitioned the EFCC and attached the payment voucher."

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