For allegedly blowing N2 billion in hotel bills for former Niger Delta militants, the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA) may have run into trouble with the Ministry of Transport (MoT).
NIMASA is said to have spent the money in the past four years on keeping the former militants in hotels in Abuja, Port Harcourt and Lagos.
It was learnt that the Minister of Transport, Senator Idris Umar, his officials and NIMASA account staff were shocked when they learnt of the bills.
The minister, it was gathered, was furious over the spending, which he considered reckless, considering that over 90 per cent was spent on former militants in exotic hotels.
The discovery of the huge bills, it was learnt, has caused a row between the management and the staff.
NIMASA Deputy Director, Public Relations (DDPR) Mr. Isichei Osamgbi denied the story. “Completely false. There is no such thing,” he said.
But, according to a senior NIMASA official, some of the ex-militants lived, dined and wined in their hotels for over a year.
An official of one of the hotels in Lagos said the bills rose to over N2 billion because whenever the ex-militants travelled, they refused to submit their keys and returned to their rooms after their trips.
He said when the ex-militants moved into the hotel, NIMASA did not say when they would leave nor write the management that it would no longer foot the bills.
“The agency did not write us that they will no longer be responsible for the hotel bills.’’
Sources at the Ministry of Transport said some senior officials of the agency had, in the past few days, been trying to keep the information relating to the bills from the public, he said.
A ministry official urged the incoming administration to investigate the matter, saying: “The All Progressives Congress (APC)-led Federal Government and the National Assembly must look into this spending spree by NIMASA. It is a source of great concern to us for agencies under our watch to be spending public funds the way the current management of NIMASA is doing.”
He said the agency’s conduct goes contrary to the government policy on fiscal reform.
“The money is public money. The leadership of the agency must be made to account for it. Why should the management allow people who have nothing to contribute to the agency stay in five-star hotels for years?
“The N2 billion bill is a disaster to public relations (PR) and pure maladministration.”
Sources at some of the hotels revealed that the ex-militants splurged on expensive foods and drinks.
“It is disgusting and highly despicable. The management of the agency took advantage of its privileged position to spend public funds the way it liked. Those people enjoyed expensive drinks during their stay in the hotels.
“There is no doubt that the country is in a financial crisis. The price of crude oil has dropped at the international market and the Federal Government has devalued the naira. Therefore, the N2 billion hotel bill is completely unethical, uncharitable, shameful and selfish. It is offensive to millions of Nigerians. The decision to keep the militants in the hotels is silly, despicable and shameful,” the official said.