Naval Chief gets ultimatum to explain N11.5m rent claim

The House of Representatives Committee on Public Accounts on Monday sent the representatives of the Chief of Naval Staff, Vice Admiral Ibok-Ete Ekwe Ibas, out of an investigative hearing.

The committee’s Chairman Oluwole Oke said the House, in a bid to compile authentic figures and actionable facts, normally deals with personnel with the authority to answer relevant questions.

He said the committee members were convinced that Commander Murtala Ahmed, an Assistant Director of Budget, who represented Ibas, was not the appropriate person to provide answers to the committee’s queries on the utilisation of N11.5 million said to be the rent the service allegedly failed to explain.

Ahmed and other officers who were with him for the hearing were told to excuse the gathering.

Oke issued a seven-day ultimatum to the Chief of Naval Staff to appear in person before the committee and defend the amount.

This followed the reading of queries raised by the Office of the Auditor General of the Federation (OAGF) on N11.5 million paid as rent for a four-bedroom apartment in Ikoyi, Lagos State, by the Navy.

The Auditor General noted that the duration of the rent was not indicated and that there was no deduction of VAT, which he said was in violation of financial regulations.

The committee chairman expressed disappointment over the attitude of the Chief of Naval Staff.

He said: “We will not accept your representation. I have been privileged in this House to man the Committee on Defence.

“If the Chief of Naval Staff is indisposed to appear before this committee, the least I expect him to do is to send either the Naval Secretary or the Chief of Naval Account and Budgets.

“Democracy survives on a tripod, one of which is a very strong and vibrant Arm Forces… I think the military, the Armed Forces, are done well and fared better under democratic governance.

“We will not accept your appearance. If the Chief of Naval Staff cannot appear, he should send a very senior officer to appear before this committee. He has seven days to cause appearance; within seven days, please.”

Also, the committee sent a delegation of four lawmakers to Osun State to ascertain if N30 million was paid as compensation to communities whose properties were demolished.

Members of the committee are: Zakari Mba, Chinnedu Oga, Bimbo Ajide Sororo and Kolawole Oyetola.

This followed a query raised by the Office of the OAGF that the N30 million was misappropriated while implementing the canalisation of Okoko and Ugbaga Rivers contract in Osogbo, the state capita.

The sum of N1.2 billion was reportedly paid for the contract with a 10-month completion period.

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