The Federal Government has handed a 30-day ultimatum to the United Nations and other international agencies in Nigeria within which they should give a detailed account of how funds from donor agencies have been spent over the years.
The FG threatened that should the UN and the international agencies refuse to give an account of the expenditure, she would go to court to compel them to do so.
The Minister of Women Affairs, Uju Kennedy- Ohanenye issued the threat during a press conference held late Monday night that the 30-day ultimatum starting from October 16 to November 15 had been given to the organisations, failure to which the Ministry would proceed to court.
She also raised concern over the misuse of $100 million (approximately N103 billion) that was earmarked for a World Bank-sponsored project meant to bring in women, encourage them in business, empower them, particularly in the field of Agriculture and give them little capital as well as teach them on how to save.
According to her, very few women were gathered and were given stipends ranging from N30,000-N60,000, adding that rather than use modern instruments for their harvested farm produce, they were still using primitive tools.
While emphasising that the court action was in the interest of Nigerian women, the minister added that from October 16 to November 8, the organisations would get the ministry’s pre-litigation letter, and by 15, it would be heading to court.
Kennedy-Ohanenye also promised Nigerians that immediately after November 15, “by the next day, you will hear the lawsuit number. Let them come and defend the money they are using you to collect from donors.”
She said, “I demand from the United Nations and their agencies that we want an account of all the monies they sourced from donors in the name of Nigeria. We want to see an account of what they did so they will prove me wrong.
“From October 16 to November 15, if we don’t get those reports published for Nigerians to see, we are heading to court. From October 16 to November 8, they will get our pre-action letter that by 15, we are heading to court.
“By November 8, the action letter will come from this ministry on behalf of Nigerian women and children who are over 70 per cent of our population. After that 15, we will go to court to demand that account. You can’t use N140-148 million and write it off that you’re using it for policy-making and technical support, summit and many other things that are totally irrelevant from why the donors bring in the money.”
She lamented that from her investigation, the response that the Nigerian system and policy have been involved and responsible for the snail-like progress of the voiceless in terms of empowerment, particularly for women, does not hold water.
While promising to change such negative narratives, the minister declared that enough was enough in the writing off of huge sums of money in the name of policy-making, summits and other miscellaneous items, and actions outside the purpose for which the monies were meant.
The minister said such practices have continued to increase the spate of insecurity and low participation of women in politics.
She said, “You take millions of Naira and say it’s for feeding – who sent you? Was that what the money was meant for? When the people the money was meant for are there languishing in poverty, dying for lack of money for medical treatment, and you’re there instead of empowering them to give them voice and life, you people are using pen to lavish the money.
“Quote me wrong by providing the account of what the money was used for and let Nigerians see. It’s not about us and the government. They bring the money into the country in Dollars and recycle it and then carry it back. How will our naira survive? Part of the insecurity we are suffering today is mainly around poverty.
“Part of the lack of women’s participation in politics surrounds poverty. So money is being given to us to help us, and we expect that the money will be channelled towards empowering the vulnerable, giving them voices and ensuring that their children go to school.
“We can’t continue shutting our mouths to the money being released to few individuals and the many masses in the country are suffering. Enough is enough.”
She added, “And when you wonder why things are not working, they will say it’s Nigerian policy. I don’t believe it, Nigerians are not willing to accept it again. Let Nigerians see what has been going on. Then you can plead with them, apologise and then change your ways.”
Women minister calls out Nigeria for Women Project Over
The minister also shed light on the alleged mismanagement of the World Bank’s $100 million
She said, “As we speak, they have released $100 million for this project. What it is meant to do is to bring in women and encourage them in business, empower them, give them little capital and teach them how to save money.
“But as we speak, they have gathered some women, very few in number and have given them between N30,000- N60,000 and the women are saving meagerly.
“I went there to visit and I didn’t see any improvement in their lives. Even those farming rice still use their hands to pick rice and with this, they can’t move from one point to another.
“I am asking Nigeria for the women’s project. What did they do with the $100 million that they couldn’t buy the common machine? We have bought that machine and we are expecting it any moment for now and we will give it to the women.”
Revealing the high level of corruption tied to the project, the minister said that already, the ministry had already purchased a machine to help the women and it cost less than $3,000.
“The machine does four things. It de-stones the rice, chaffs it off, washes it and boils it. It produces 10 bags of rice per hour and it costs less than $3,000. Why couldn’t they get it and give it to the women if they’re actually sincere that they want to help us? Why are they deceiving us? If you don’t want to help us, don’t use our names to collect money.
“But if you collect our money, we demand an account. From now onwards, you must give us an account and you must utilise that money in a way that will favour our people. You will not bring in western ways into our country because it is not working for us.
“We need action and empowerment so that we can tackle the challenges trying to swallow us. That is what we need.”
She asked, “So what did Nigeria women’s project do with $100 million that up till date, these women are using their hands to pick stones from rice? How do we increase our productivity to have food in society and help the poor if we continue like this? Nigerians demand for explanation on the issue of the funds. The necessary things have not been done to improve our agriculture and help the women to be empowered.”
Madukwe B. Nwabuisi is an accomplished journalist renown for his fearless reporting style and extensive expertise in the field. He is an investigative journalist, who has established himself as a kamikaze reporter.