Tension has trailed a decision to auction at least 11 official vehicles belonging to the National Gallery of Art, Abuja, into private hands.
According to a petition submitted to the Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offence Commission, titled ‘Fraudulent disposal/auction of project vehicles of the National Gallery of Arts to cronies of the Director-General: need to urgently stop current auction of fresh vehicles,’ the petitioner, Buhari Ahmed, alleged that the DG is auctioning the vehicles to “pacify his cronies”.
The petition dated November 15, 2021, read, “The said vehicles are in good condition and presently in use by the directors who are also expected to be beneficiaries of the sales.
“This has been the corrupt trend in the gallery where government vehicles are labelled as unserviceable even when they are in good condition and auctioned at ridiculous prices and as scrap below 20 per cent of their initial cost.”
The petitioner alleged that although the gallery have no vehicles, the only available ones are about to be auctioned as scrap.
He added that the last auction was done in 2020 by a former director.
According to Ahmed, in the last quarter of 2021, 11 vehicles were marked as scrap for secret auction to the same set of persons who acquired the 2020 vehicles.
The vehicles include six 2016 model Toyota Corolla vehicles used by: the departments of educational services, research and planning, curatorial services, monitoring and documentation, admin and staff development, finance and account, and special duties.
The list also includes a 2015 model Toyota Prado Black Sports Utility Vehicle by the DG; the same vehicle was refurbished in August 2020 by the Director of Finance and Account and handed over to the DG as an official vehicle when he resumed in September 2020.
Two Toyota Coaster buses and two Peugeot Expert Space Wagons are also part of the 11.
The petition read further, “The gallery now hires project vehicles and Hilux pick up vans for exhibitions and other projects. The level of impunity and corruption in the Gallery has hit high and staff members are crying out for rescue.
“It is suspicious to note that all those vehicles are disposed of in quick succession within two years.
With the creation of new zonal offices, no project vehicles will be available for the operations of those areas. Also, 26 outstations of the NGA do not have a single vehicle for operations.”
The petitioner, therefore, prayed that the ICPC investigates the state of the vehicles sold in 2020 and to ascertain if they were truly certified and qualified as scraps; to recall all sales already carried out, return all vehicles to Gallery Head Office and distribute them to the 26 outstations; to stop the current auction/disposal of the remaining vehicles of the Gallery; and bring all culprits to book.
Further records obtained from the NGA showed that the Toyota Prado SUV, with registration number 04M01BFG, was purchased in 2016 and was assigned to the office of the Director-General.
Four of the Toyota Corolla vehicles, purchased in 2014, had registration numbers: 04M02BFG, 04M03BFG, 04M04BFG and 04M05BFG. They were assigned to the offices of Director, Curatorial Services; Director, Finance and Accounts; Director, Research and Planning; and Director; Admin and Staff Development respectively.
When contacted to answer the allegations, the Director-General of the NGA, Mr. Ebeten Iwara, asked if our correspondent was interested in acquiring any of the vehicles.
He thereafter declined to comment or give further details on the questions raised, including the rationale behind the auctions of functioning vehicles, if the vehicles are being auctioned to the public and other vital details. Also, attempts to reach him for an in-person meeting proved abortive.
Meanwhile, the Acting Head of Public Enlightenment Department and Spokesperson for the ICPC, Azuka Ogugua, told our correspondent that the ICPC is currently investigating the matters outlined in the petition.
“A petition is a report of a possible criminal offence. If at all it has been submitted to the ICPC as you said, rest assured that the matters outlined are under investigation. But we don’t do media trials at the ICPC. And I cannot give full details of the issue at this time,” she said.
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