By Soni Daniel, Northern Region Editor
ABUJA — Immediate past Works Minister, Arc. Mike Onolememen, has responded to an exclusive report by Vanguard in which he was accused of smuggling four unnamed officials into the delegation that represented Nigeria at an international infrastructure summit in Paris, France, in 2011.
The story, which was run by the newspaper last Tuesday, had also indicated that the minister included the names of his wife and sister on the official delegation of the ministry to a leadership training programme in Dubai, United Arab Emirate that same year.
But Onolememen, who reacted to the report while speaking to our correspondent in Abuja, yesterday, denied any wrongdoing in any of the two trips, which cost the country over N26 million.
The former minister said the four unnamed persons referred to as “ghost representatives” by the newspaper were members of the Senate and House of Representatives committees on Works, who decided to accompany the ministry’s delegation to Paris after the necessary arrangements had been concluded.
Onolememen explained that it was in a rush bid to raise a memo for the inclusion of the four stakeholders on works to meet up with the departing team that their names were inadvertently omitted, adding that there was no intention by those who prepared the document to make away with the money approved.
He said: “The truth of the matter is that the four men attended the Paris summit and made serious contributions to our road infrastructure and I can say with all honesty that the N20.6 million approved for them was for their trip to Paris and nothing else.”
The former minister, who also defended the inclusion of his wife’s name on the ministry’s list for a trip to Dubai in 2011, explained that the meeting was actually for ministers’ wives and top female ministry officials.
Onolememen stated that his wife was specially nominated to lead the team from Nigeria to Dubai and she in turn picked three female officials to accompany her to the event, which lasted five days.
The former minister said that as a sticker to probity and accountability, he was mindful of the things he did while in office and declared that he saved huge sums of money for the country as a result of stringent measures to prevent waste.
He also said he did his best to improve the country’s road sector from what he inherited on assumption of office in 2011.