$100 Million Women Fund: FG probes UN, others, demands explanation on expenditure

*May head to court, issues one month ultimatum 

Uju Kennedy-Ohanenye

By Achiever Peterson 

The Federal Government of Nigeria has raised concern over the misuse of $100 million (approximately N103 billion), earmarked for a World Bank sponsored project meant to bring in women, encourage them in business, empower them, particularly in the field of agriculture and give them little capital as well as teach them how to save. 

The government also said that very few women were gathered and were given stipends ranging from N30,000-N60,000, adding that rather than use modern instruments for their harvested farm produce, they were still using olden days methods. 

The government threatened that should the UN and the international agencies refuse to give account of the expenditures, she would go to court to compel them to do so.

The Minister of Women Affairs, Uju Kennedy-Ohanenye, who raised the issues during a press conference held by 9:30pm on Monday night, October 16, 2023, therefore handed a one month ultimatum for the UN and other international agencies to provide a detailed account of how funds from donor agencies have been spent over the years.

According to her, at the expiration of the ultimatum, which starts from October 16 to November 15 had been given to the organisations, the Ministry would proceed to court, if nothing was done.

While emphasizing that the court action was in the interest of Nigerian women, the minister added that from October 16 to November 8, the organisations would get the ministry's pre-litigation letter that by 15, it would be heading to court. 

Kennedy-Ohanenye also promised Nigerians that immediately after the November 15 deadline, "by the next day, you will hear the law suit number. Let them come and defend the money they are using you to collect from donors."

She said, "I demand from the United Nations and their agencies that we want an account of all the monies they sourced from donors in the name of Nigeria. We want to see an account of what they did so they will prove me wrong.

"From October 16 to November 15, if we don't get those reports published for Nigerians to see, we are heading to court. From October 16 to November 8, they will get our pre-action letter that by 15, we are heading to court. 

"By November 8, the action letter will come from this Ministry on behalf of Nigerian women and children who are over 70 per cent of our population. After that 15, we will go to court to demand that account. You can't use N140-148 million and write it off that you're using it for policy making and technical support, summit and many other things that are totally irrelevant from why the donors bring in the money."

She lamented that from her investigation, the response that the Nigerian system and policy has been involved and responsible for the snail-like progress of the voiceless in terms of empowerment, particularly for women, does not hold water.

While promising to change such negative narratives, the Minister declared that enough was enough in the writing off of huge sums of money in the name of policy making, summits and other miscellaneous items and actions outside the purpose for which the monies were meant.

The Minister said such practices have continued to increase the spate of insecurity and low participation of women in politics. 

She said, "You take millions of Naira and say it's for feeding, who sent you? Was that what the money was meant for? When the people the money was meant for are there languishing in poverty, dying for lack of money for medical treatment, and you're there instead of empowering them to give them voice and life, you people are using pen to lavish the money.

"Quote me wrong by providing the account of what the money was used for and let Nigerians see. It's not about us and the government. They bring in the monies into the country in Dollars and recycle it and then carry it back. How will our naira survive? Part of the insecurity we are suffering today is mainly around poverty.

"Part of the lack of women participation in politics surrounds poverty. So money is being given to us to help us, we expect that the money will be channeled towards empowering the vulnerable, giving them voices and ensuring that their children go to school. 

"We can't continue shutting our mouths to the monies being released to few individuals and the many masses in the country are suffering. Enough is enough.

"And when you wonder why things are not working, they will say it's Nigerian policy. I don't believe it, Nigerians are not willing to accept it again. Let Nigerians see what has been going on. Then you can plead with them, apologise and then change your ways", she further said.

The Minister also shed light on the alleged mismanagement of World Bank $100 million 

She said, "As we speak, they have released $100 million for this project. What it is meant to do is to bring in women and encourage them in business, empower them, give them little capital and teach them how to save money.

"But as we speak, they have gathered some women, very few in number and have given them between N30,000- N60,000 and the women are saving meagerly. I went there to visit and I didn't see any improvement in their lives. Even those farming rice still use hands to pick rice and with this, they can't move from one point to another. 

"I am asking Nigeria for Women Project, what did they do with the $100 million that they couldn't buy common machine. We have bought that machine and we are expecting it any moment for now and we will give it to the women."

Revealing the high level of corruption tied to the project, the Minister said that already, the ministry had purchased a machine to help the women and it costs less than $3,000.

"The machine does four things. It de-stones the rice, chaffs it off, washes it and boils it. It produces 10 bags of rice per hour and it costs less than $3,000.

Why couldn't they get it and give to the women, if they're actually sincere that they want to help us? Why are they deceiving us? If you don't want to help us, don't use our name to collect money.

"But if you collect our money, we demand account. From now onwards, you must give us account and you must utilize that money in a way that it will favour our people. You will not bring in western ways into our country because it is not working for us. We need action and empowerment, so that we can tackle the challenges trying to swallow us. That is what we need.

"So what did Nigeria Women Project do with $100m that up till date, these women are using hand to pick stone from rice? How do we increase our productivity to have food in the society and help the poor if we continue like this? Nigerians demand for explanation on the issue of the funds. The necessary things have not been done to improve our agriculture and help the women to be empowered."

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