By Grace Chigbu
ABUJA – The Federal Government (FG) has issued a stern 30-day ultimatum to the United Nations and other international agencies operating within Nigeria. The government demands a comprehensive breakdown of how these organizations have utilized donor funds over the past years.
Minister of Women Affairs, Uju Kennedy- Ohanenye, made this revelation at a press conference late Monday night. The minister explained that the ultimatum spans from October 16 to November 15. If the organizations fail to provide a satisfactory report within this window, the Ministry of Women Affairs will not hesitate to initiate legal action.
Central to the minister’s concerns is the alleged misappropriation of $100 million, roughly equivalent to N103 billion. This considerable sum, sponsored by the World Bank, was designated for a project aimed at women’s empowerment, especially in the agricultural sector. The initiative aimed to boost business opportunities for women, offer them capital, and equip them with savings knowledge.
However, according to Kennedy-Ohanenye, the implementation has been lackluster at best. “Instead of using modern tools and equipment, these women, who were handed mere stipends between N30,000-N60,000, are still relying on outdated, primitive farming methods,” she remarked.
The minister took a bold step in promising transparency to Nigerians, assuring them of swift legal action post the ultimatum. “By November 16, the nation will be informed of the lawsuit number. It’s time these agencies defended how they use funds collected in Nigeria’s name,” she declared.
Kennedy-Ohanenye voiced her concerns regarding the vast sums of money that are seemingly written off under the guise of “policy-making”, technical support, and summits. She boldly challenged these agencies: “Present a clear account of the funds’ utilization. Let the Nigerian populace see. It’s not a government vs. us scenario anymore. Funds enter the nation in dollars and get recycled only to leave the shores again. This affects our economy and increases poverty, a leading cause of our prevailing insecurity.”
Highlighting the gravity of the situation, the minister shed light on the glaring discrepancies in the World Bank’s $100 million project. While the funds were meant to enhance women’s lives substantially, evidence on the ground tells a different story. “Upon my visit, I saw no marked improvement in their condition. Those involved in rice farming still employ archaic methods, using their hands for tasks that machines should handle,” she lamented.
In a surprising revelation, Kennedy-Ohanenye stated that the Ministry of Women Affairs had already acquired a multi-functional machine, costing less than $3,000. This machine, she noted, is capable of processing rice efficiently, handling tasks such as de-stoning, washing, and boiling. “Why didn’t the project committee procure such a machine with a $100 million budget? Is their commitment to the Nigerian women genuine, or is it just another conduit for siphoning funds?” she queried.
The minister concluded by urging these international agencies to focus on actionable empowerment and to avoid introducing impractical western methodologies that might not resonate with the Nigerian ethos. She emphasized the necessity of productivity enhancements, particularly in agriculture, as the bedrock for empowering women and improving the nation’s overall welfare.
In these trying times, with an apparent mismanagement of resources meant for women’s upliftment, the nation watches, hoping for transparency, accountability, and a genuine effort to change the narrative for the better.