This Day (Lagos)

Nigeria: House Probes N2.1 Billion Missing From Mint

Abuja — The House of Representatives Thursday mandated a special ad hoc committee to investigate the alleged disappearance of N2.1 billion from the vaults of the Nigerian Security Printing and Minting Company (NSPMC).

Besides, the lawmakers also directed the House Committees on Justice and Police Affairs to probe the allegations of misconduct and complicity in the murder of Mr. Olaitan Oyerinde, the Principal Secretary to the Edo State Governor, Mr. Adams Oshiomhole.

Oshiomhole had recently expressed frustration at the failure of the security agencies to find Oyerinde's killers and accused the police of plotting to cover up the murder and those behind it.

The Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) also joined the fray in the raging controversy over the handling of investigation into the death of Oyerinde with a call for the probe and subsequent dismissal of the Deputy Inspector General of Police (DIG) in charge of Force Criminal Investigations Department (FCID), Mr. Peter Gana, if found guilty of shielding the killers as alleged by the governor. Oyerinde was murdered on May 4, 2012 at his Benin City home.

The House in plenary decided to investigate the missing of the N2.1 billion from the NSPMC's vaults after considering a motion sponsored by 61 legislators.

Chairman, House Committee on Rules and Business, Hon. Albert Sam-Tsokwa, who led the debate on the matter, recalled that the amount got missing in December last year.

According to him, the missing funds, consisting of newly printed N1,000 notes mysteriously disappeared during production, adding that that was the second time such a large sum of money had allegedly disappeared from the company due to security breaches.

He said: "We are disturbed that there has been conflicting information on the actual amount of money declared missing. While the Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) said it was about N2 billion, the Managing Director of the Nigerian Security Printing and Minting Company (NSPMC) has claimed that the amount was N1.5 million and the media adviser to the managing director claimed that the actual amount missing was N900,000.

"He also claimed that it was due to a security breach and that a security operative was arrested in Lagos with the said sum of N900,000. It is also important to point out that about nine workers of the Nigerian Security Printing and Minting Company were summarily dismissed from the establishment after news of the theft became public knowledge."

The House later adopted the motion and mandated the ad hoc committee to investigate the matter and make its findings known in four weeks.

Considering another motion during its sitting yesterday, the House also directed its Committees on Justice and Police Affairs to probe the allegations of misconduct and complicity in Oyerinde's murder levelled against the police.

The resolve to conduct an investigation into the controversy surrounding the death of the deceased came through a motion of urgent public importance praying the parliament to intervene.

The sponsor of the motion, Hon. Pally Iriase (ACN/Edo), observed that insecurity had become a major problem facing the country as people were being murdered without the law bringing the murderers to book.

Iriase recalled the circumstances under which Oyerinde was killed as well as the role of security agencies in unmasking the killers.

He said apart from the conflicting reports of arrest of two different groups of suspects by the police and the Department of State Security Service (SSS), even those arrested and paraded on national television were yet to be charged to court.

Minority Whip of the House, Hon. Samson Osagie (ACN/Edo), said the aim of the motion was not to trade blame but to ensure that security agencies live up to their responsibilities at all times.

The motion to investigate the issue was unanimously adopted by the lawmakers.

The NLC, in an obvious reaction to Oshiomhole's allegation of police complicity in the murder, accused the security agency of cover-up in the murder, saying it believed that the police know the killers.

The NLC accused the police of 'buying time' until Nigerians lose interest in knowing who killed Oyerinde.

The NLC in a statement yesterday by its President, Comrade Abdulwahed Omar, accused the officers of handling the case of compromising their offices, adding that they should be investigated.

He also called for an investigation into allegations of complacency against Gana, noting that the DIG should be dismissed if found guilty.

"That the police have not been able to prosecute anyone actually confirmed to be either an accomplice or the assassin, but opted to prosecute people who confessed to have been in police custody long before Comrade Oyerinde was murdered, rubbishes the attempt by the current Inspector General of Police at rebuilding the force," it said.

Labour added that the Inspector General of Police (IG), Mr. Mohammed Abubakar, has a chance to prove that he is truly committed to police reform by bringing the murderers of Oyerinde to justice.

"We therefore demand that the IG reopens this case and get the actual culprits prosecuted and punished in accordance with the law as this heinous murder is not just of interest to us but to the entire Nigerian people who feel unsafe if a young and highly talented man could be so gruesomely murdered while the police seem helpless simply because its top officer had compromised the force," it said.

Meanwhile, the House has urged the Federal Government to name a university or any tertiary institution after Nigeria's first Minister of Finance, the late Chief Festus Okotie-Eboh.

A motion for the immortalisation of Okotie-Eboh was sponsored by the Chairman, House Committee on Inter-Parliamentary Affairs, Hon. Daniel Reyenieju, representing Warri Federal Constituency of Delta State.

In the lead debate, Reyenieju recalled that Okotie-Eboh was killed alongside other national leaders in the January 15, 1966 military coup that truncated democracy in Nigeria.

The other politicians killed alongside the late Okotie-Eboh then were the Prime Minister, Sir Abubakar Tafawa Balewa; Premier of the Northern Region, Sir Ahmadu Bello; and the then Premier of the defunct Western Region, Chief Samuel Akintola.

Reyenieju lamented that whereas other deceased politicians had been immortalised at both the regional and federal levels through the naming of institutions after them, only the late Okotie-Eboh had not been so honoured.

After the debate, the motion was unanimously adopted in a voice vote.

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