PERHAPS some people may not find this mind-blowing given that Nigerians have become accustomed to hearing about outrageous looting of the nation’s treasury by public officials.
But many would appreciate that even with the falling value of Nigeria’s currency, N450 million could save lives in the health sector where government hospitals in the country lack many equipment.
Some of the vehicles after their recovery at ICPC premises at the weekend
The quantum of money in question, if deployed in fixing the collapsed portions of the Benin/Ore Highway, could as well reduce the alarming rate of auto crashes on that road.
However, the systemic nature of corruption in the country ensured that the money, instead of being expended on common good, was used to purchase exotic vehicles and then converted to personal properties by some top public officials.
The discovery came to light in the course of an investigation by Sunday Vanguard into the activities of the Independent Corrupt Practices Commission, ICPC.
The manner in which the misappropriation took place offers insight into how undermining some public officials had been to the Nigerian story.
Some top officials of Ministries, Departments and Agencies,MDAs, were discovered to be chiefly involved in the matter.
Specifically, those affected were of the Ministries of Water Resources, Labour, Environment,Information and Health, Federal Road Maintenance Agency, FERMA, and Subsidy Reinvestment Programme, SURE-P.
Findings revealed that funds set aside by the SURE-P for execution of projects were used to procure vehicles by the MDAs.
Meanwhile, the vehicles were supposed to have been recorded as part of the properties of the MDAs in line with the procurement rules of the civil service.
It was also learnt that since the funds did not emanate from the budgetary allocation of the concerned MDAs, not recording the purchase of the 103 vehicles facilitated the appropriation by the officials.
The beneficiaries of the fraud were found to have been assisted by SURE-P contractors and officials of the agency in charge of some projects.
A breakdown of the vehicles taken and later recovered indicated that they were mainly Sports Utility Vehicles, SUVs, including Toyota Land Cruiser, Audi A6, AudiQ8, Nissan Armada and Ford Edge, Toyota Hillux and Rav4.
There were also various units of Peugeot 508, Toyota Avensis and Toyota Corolla, among others.
To ensure that the vehicles were not documented as government properties, Sunday Vanguard learnt that they were not registered in government name but in the names of the top officials who later appropriated them.
While some of the vehicles were taken away during the last dispensation, others disappeared when President Muhammadu Buhari said he was winding up the now defunct SURE-P.
If the action was irritating, the manner it was penetrated could be termed outrageous and unpatriotic.
No fewer than 13 vehicles worth N55.5million were allegedly made away with by a senior official of the Water Quality Control Department of the Federal Ministry of Water Resources (names withheld).
He was alleged to have taken two Prado jeeps, three Toyota Avensis cars, two Rav 4 jeeps and three Toyota Hilux vans.
Further investigation revealed that in the same ministry, a former Director, Irrigation and Drainage (now retired), allegedly, took four vehicles, including a Toyota Land Cruiser, an Audi A6, Nissan Armada and Ford Edge, all SUVs, worth N28 million.
An Audi Q7 and a Hilux van were also allegedly recovered from a former Director of Dams in the department.
Another startling recovery was said to have been made in March 2016 from SURE: A former official took away a bullet proof Toyota Land Cruiser jeep worth N36 million which has now been recovered from him.
It was further gathered that a retired director in the Water Quality and Control Department was said to have been taken home a Prado jeep, a Toyota Hilux van and Toyota Corolla car.