The Federal Ministry of Agriculture has been queried by the Office of the Auditor-General of the Federation (OAuGF) for spending a total sum of N3.809 billion from the suspended Rural Grazing Area scheme fund without a presidential approval or National Assembly appropriation.
The query is one of the eight audit queries issued against the ministry and contained in the ‘Auditor-General for the Federation’s Annual Report on Non-Compliance/Internal Control Weaknesses Issues in Ministries, Departments and Agencies of the Federal Government of Nigeria for the Year Ended 31st December, 2019.’
The Agric Ministry was queried for expenditures totaling N60,795,898,225.84.
The report was presented to the National Assembly Clerk, Ojo Amos, by the Acting Auditor-General of the Federation, Adolphus Aghughu, on September 15, 2021, while the Senate and House Committees on Public Accounts commenced investigation into the queries.
RUGA scheme was introduced by the Muhammadu Buhari-led government in May 2019. The scheme died soon after its introduction due to the firece opposition that followed in many states of the country.
According to the OAuGF, the ministry, the Agric Ministry violated the presidential directive suspending the scheme, by allegedly initiating and paying out N3.433bn without due process.
The query partly read, “Ninety-five (95) payment vouchers were raised and paid from RUGA Intervention Fund between 1st August, 2019, and13th September, 2019, totaling N3,433,984,692.66, and the above payments were initiated and paid without due process after the Presidential directive suspending the RUGA project.”
The ministry, according to the report also paid out an additional N375,785,893.75 to some individuals and corporate organisations from the RUGA Intervention Fund through 13 payment vouchers without approval, according to the Auditor-General.
It said the payments include N202.7m and N160m paid for transportation and other expenses in support of victims of banditry in Zamfara State, and advance payment meant for sensitisation and advocacy visits to the governor of the state, respectively.
According to report, the management of the ministry claimed that “the action is regretted and is also being investigated.”