RUMOURS are rife that as much as N700bn ($1.8bn) worth of Covid-19 relief funds were lost as a result of the recent fire which gutted Treasury House in Abuja that houses the office of the accountant-general of the federation.
In April 8, the five storey building was gutted by fire and although no life was lost, most of the offices in the complex were destroyed. Immediately after the fire, however, Prince Clem Agba, the minister of state for budget and national planning, said preliminary reports showed that all records were intact after the outbreak.
Yesterday, however, news outlet News Mirror, revealed that finance minister Zainab Ahmed, indicated that cash raised from donors to combat the coronavirus pandemic was lost in the fire. According to News Mirror, she announced that the files and documents of the Covid-19 relief fund donated by individuals and companies to support the fight against coronavirus were all burnt down.
This report is yet to be confirmed, however and is questionable given that most of the donations were made via bank transfers, so the information will be available digitally. Besides, most Nigerian ministries are also digital, so the records would be accessible via the databases of their Internet providers.
Prince Agba said notwithstanding the preliminary explanation for the incident, a full-scale investigation would be conducted by professionals to ascertain the actual cause of the fire. He pointed out that an officer who reported for work had tried to switch on one of the air-conditioners, leading to an electrical spark about 10am.
According to the minister, there is no cause to worry because a significant percentage of the treasury operations have gone digital. This he said helped minimise any damage that may have occurred from the fire.
Prince Agba added: “Even if the data centre were to be affected, we have a backup centre that is outside of Abuja for recovery in the event that we lose the data centre. The only thing that has happened to the data centre is the exterior where we have the cooling units at the back because the data centre has to be cool.”