Senator Kabir Marafa, APC-Zamfara, on Tuesday, accused former Minister of Health Onyebuchi Chukwu of diverting his N300 million constituency allowance meant for Gusau Federal Medical Centre, FMC.
Mr Marafa made the allegation when the Minister of Health, Prof. Isaac Adewole, appeared before the Senate over the deteriorating state of teaching hospitals in the country.
Recall that Chukwu Minister of Health under former President Goodluck Jonathan between April 2010 and October 2014.
The lawmaker, who represents Zamfara Central, reminded Mr Adewole that he had once briefed him about the issue in 2015 when he assumed office as minister.
“Upon assumption of office, I had an interaction with you based on the petition I wrote to the office of the President,” he said.
According to Mr Marafa, in 2012, my first term in office, the medical director of FMC Gusau came to my office after defending his budget.
“He drew my attention to the challenge the hospital faced. He said today, FMC Gusau lacks so many vital equipment.
“He said an accident victim would either be taken to Zaria or Sokoto which is about 200 kilometres distance either way because of the state of the hospital.
“I asked him what can I do to assist? He told me some of the equipment we need to put in the medical centre.
“I now asked him to do the costing of some of the equipment they needed. He did it and came with a figure of N300 million that time,” he narrated.
He said though his consistency project allowance then was N197 million, “I went to the then Senate President, Mr David Mark, and I told him what the medical director told me and he graciously approved that I should be given the remaining part of the money to make the N300 million.
“I now domiciled the money in FMC Gusau to purchase those critical equipment so that in the event of any accident, which we don’t know who is going to be, people can be attended to in Gusau without being taken to Zaria of Sokoto.
“Honourable Minister, through 2012, 2013, 2014 up to 2015, that project did not see the light of the day after the money was paid 100 per cent.
“That year, I could remember only Sen. Uche Chukwumerije of blessed memory and myself domiciled their constituency projects in Ministry of Health; his own, N25 million, while my own was a whole N300 million. It was during Jonathan administration,” he said.
Mr Marafa said it was disheartening that Chukwu, in collaboration with the then Permanent Secretary in the ministry, diverted the money to purchase mosquito nets in Enugu.
“The great Minister of Health, Chukwu, took the money belonging to the Federal Medical Centre, Gusau, the money belonging to the people of Zamfara Central, that I domiciled in the hospital and took it in active connivance with his Permanent Secretary, to Enugu to buy mosquito nets.
“They use my N300 million to buy mosquito nets. I wrote a petition to Mr President.
“Sir, 2015, you promised me that you are going to address the issue. From 2015, 2016, 2017, 2018, up till now, 2019, I am retiring.
“The money belongs to the people of Zamfara and it is nowhere to be found. Now we can hear the failures in Zamfara,” he said.
The lawmaker, who is the Chairman, Senate Committee on Petroleum Downstream, also said that his N200 million constituency project allowance in 2017 aimed at registering the people of his constituency on National Health Insurance Scheme, NHIS, is yet to be accounted for.
“Again in 2017, I put the whole of my consistency project of about N200 million into NHIS because I have learnt of the advantage the people derive when they are registered into NHIS.
“Honourable Minister, till today, the story has been, we have to get a letter from the SGF, we have to do this, we have to do that.
“To me, it is like there is a general gang up to sabotage the people of Zamfara by the Ministry of Health to deny us of this money that senators and members of the House of Representatives have always been blackmailed and called names in the name of pocketing constituency project allowances,” he remarked.
He, however, asked Adewole what he could do to recover the money for the benefit of the people of his constituency.
Responding, although the minister admitted having the knowledge about the issue raised, he however appealed to the lawmaker to let the matter be buried.
“I want to apologise to you over what has happened to the money.
“I did confess that I used to run away from you coming over this issue because it has to do with what happened in the past.
“And as a minister, the last thing I want to do is to start investigating the past,” he said.
According to him, I talked to the MD of the FMC Gusau to make provision in his budget let’s buy these equipment because we cannot reopen what has happened in the past.
“I will not condone it, it has happened, it has happened. And I want to plead with you as I have done privately, let us bury this case and find a way of getting the equipment,” Mr Adewole said.