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Reps summon British envoy over Gowon, probe alleged payroll infractions

By Adamu Abuh, Abuja
02 December 2020   |   3:08 am
The House of Representatives, yesterday, summoned the British High Commissioner, Catriona Laing, over the claim by a member of the country’s parliament, Tom Tugendhat, that former Head of State, Gen. Yakubu Gowon

[FILES] Former Nigerian Head of State, Yakubu Gowon. (Photo by Kola SULAIMON / AFP) (Photo by KOLA SULAIMON/AFP via Getty Images)<br />

The House of Representatives, yesterday, summoned the British High Commissioner, Catriona Laing, over the claim by a member of the country’s parliament, Tom Tugendhat, that former Head of State, Gen. Yakubu Gowon (rtd), allegedly looted half of the treasury in the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) when he held sway.

Adopting a motion sponsored by Yusuf Gagdi under matters of urgent importance at the plenary presided over by Speaker Femi Gbajabiamila, the lower legislative chamber described the allegation, by chair of the Foreign Affairs Select Committee of the House of Commons, as a “deliberate action aimed at breaching the peace in Nigeria.”

The lawmakers said it was incumbent on the British envoy to explain why despite demands from citizens and government of Nigeria, Great Britain had failed to offer an apology for Tugendhat’s utterances.

They flayed the Briton for abusing parliamentary privilege to “disparage the person of General Yakubu Gowon, and to make statements against him which in other circumstances would be libelous and subject to sanction.”

The House, therefore, demanded a public apology from Tugendhat, and mandated Gbajabiamila to write his House of Commons counterpart, stating Nigeria’s position on the matter.

Gagdi, while moving the motion, argued that Tugendhat, at the time of the debate, never provided any evidence to back his weighty claim.

He regretted that the parliamentarian threw caution to the winds unmindful of the strong ties between both countries.
ALSO, the House Committee on Public Accounts (PAC) is launching a probe into allegations that the Integrated Payroll and Personnel Information System (IPPIS) was riddled with irregularities reportedly leading to alleged non-payment of salaries and allowances of federal civil servants

The Wole Oke-led panel initiated the inquest in the course of engaging tertiary institutions and other agencies on their financial audit reports for 2018-2019.

The committee was alarmed to observe leakages and sharp practices.

The legislators expressed reservations at the report of J.S. Tarkar University of Agriculture, Makurdi, Benue State.

Oke (PDP: Osun) made the disclosure while drilling Rector of Auchi Polytechnic, Edo State, Dr. Zubair Mustapha, on expenditure and audits of the tertiary institution for the period under review.

Mustapha told the committee that pending salaries for the years in question were due to anomalies in the IPPIS, a payroll system, introduced by President Muhammadu Buhari’s administration in 2017.

“The backlog of salaries is from people who were not captured by IPPIS,” he added.

In a swift reaction, the panel chair said: “That’s why we must look into IPPIS. We were told here that the salaries of personnel of the University of Agriculture, Makurdi (Benue State) went into accounts of staff of Jigawa State. IPPIS must be investigated to detect some of the irregularities observed in the system. We have observed some serious irregularities in the system.”

The committee eventually resolved to write the Minister of Finance and Accountant General of the Federation to explain the alleged sleaze.