… As Red alert raised after ash bursts from Hawaii volcano***
Anti Corruption Crusaders of Nigeria (ACCN), an NGO, has described the recent corruption scandal rocking the National Examination Council (NECO) as a desperate attempt by disgruntled elements to mess up the President Muhammadu Buhari-led administration for its anti-corruption posture.
It will be recalled that the Registrar of NECO, Prof. Charles Uwakwe and two other principal officers of the organisation were suspended and an investigative panel set up following allegations of corruption in the award of a N25 billion contract.
Addressing a world press conference in Abuja on Wednesday, spokesperson of the Group, Comrade Christian Omale, urged the investigative panel to be very thorough, objective and fair in the discharge of its mandate.
Omale said that although the Group was in support of the investigation, the panel should be impartial in the discharge of its mandate in view of the huge amount involved.
He added that corruption should not be condoned especially in the face of the dwindling fortunes of the education sector in the country.
He told journalists that it was strange that a Council under the supervision and watchful eyes of the Federal Ministry of Education and the National Assembly in terms of budgeting would mismanage such huge amount of money through contract awards.
He assured that the Group would follow the case closely with a view to bringing justice to all parties involved, stressing that the era of frivolous allegations were over.
“As our name implies, we are in support of the anti-corruption fight of the present administration and the setting up of the investigative panel to probe the alleged N25 billion contract award by some principal officers of NECO led by Prof. Charles Uwakwe.
“We took it up as soon as the news of the suspension of these principal officers was announced and the huge sum of money involved considering the dwindling resources in the education sector.
“We know that N25 billion can go a long way towards resuscitating the ailing education sector.
“However, we are still in doubt as to how such huge sum of money can vanish from the Council under the watchful eyes of the Federal Ministry of Education and National Assembly.
“We all know the approval limit of serving ministers and chief executive officers of agencies and parastatals in the country.
“We know that the number of candidates, who sat for the National Examination Council and how much the Council makes is in the public domain.
“How then can a Council such as NECO award N25 billion contracts without approval from the Federal Executive Council (FEC)?
“How much is the budget of the Council as approved by the National Assembly?,” Omale queried.
He, therefore, called on the relevant agencies and other anti-corruption organisations to join hands in ensuring that justice prevailed in the matter.
He urged the Federal Government and the panel not to hesitate to punish anyone found culpable in any campaign of calumny against the government.
“The government should ensure that any officer found to be innocent at the end of this exercise is reinstated.
“Doing so will be clear statement that this government actually put in place competent people to steer the affairs of the Council right from the beginning.
“We are watching, as the case of the National Health Insurance Scheme is still fresh in the memories of a lot of Nigerians,’’ Omale stated.
In the meantime, a massive plume of volcanic ash burst from Hawaii’s Kilauea volcano on Tuesday, prompting authorities to issue warnings about air quality and the likelihood of a major eruption.
The Hawaiian County Civil Defense Agency said rock falls and gas explosions from one of the craters on Kilauea had caused the ash plume which was drifting downwind to the southwest.
Authorities said the ash cloud was as high as 10,000 to 12,000 feet (3,000 to 3,600 meters) and had prompted a code red aviation alert.
They warned that residents in the path of the cloud could experience respiratory problems and urged people to avoid exposure and to drive with caution.
The new burst of ash came as a new fissure opened on the Big Island, where the crater is located, bringing to 20 the total number of lava-oozing cracks caused by the volcano eruption on May 3.
The Civil Defense Agency said dangerous gas was issuing from fissures near the Lanipuna Gardens subdivision, which has been evacuated, and urged residents to stay away.
“Condition RED means immediate danger to health so take action to limit further exposure,” the agency said in a statement. “Severe conditions may exist such as choking and inability to breathe.
“This is a serious situation that affects the entire exposed population.”
So far, some 40 homes and other buildings have been destroyed by the lava that has been spewing from the volcano located on the southeastern part of Big Island.
Scientists say that as the lava level continues to drop in the crater, more fissures are likely to open in the ground and have warned of a major volcanic eruption.
Kilauea is one of the world’s most active volcanos and one of five on the island.
Additional report from Guardian UK