Yahaya Bello, governor of Kogi state, has been accused of mismanaging a N30 billion bailout fund which the state obtained from the federal government, with Edward Onoja, his chief of staff, alleged to have “ferried” N1 billion to Abuja from the state.
Egalitarian Mission for Africa (EMA), an Abuja-based civil society group, made the allegation, calling on the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) and the Independent Corrupt Practices and other related offences Commission (ICPC) to probe the current administration in the state.
Sadiq Jobi, publicity secretary of the organisation, alleged that “the spate of the depletion of the bailout funds and other statutory funds, particularly in the last two weeks, is mind-boggling”.
Jobi called on anti-graft agencies to commence immediate investigations into the issues raised.
He said the government got N30 billion bailout from the federal government, saying N10 billion out of the money ought to be for infrastructure, and N20 billion for salaries.
However, the organisation said rather than utilise the money judiciously, the Bello administration allegedly awarded phantom projects, while moving money about in a suspicious manner.
“N10 billion out of the N20 billion meant for salaries is domiciled in Zenith Bank, while the remaining N10 billion is currently in Access Bank,” EMA said in a statement signed by Jobi.
“It is instructive to note that on the 27th of July 2016, the sum of N 912,648,960.49 million was paid from the Infrastructural account Number 1010756707 at Zenith Bank to AG Vision Construction Nig Ltds account no 1920001651 at Skye Bank as part payment purportedly made for the construction of Agasa-Ukpogoro road, a fictitious non-existing project as at today.
“Our investigation revealed that nothing of such is happening on the road.”
The statement said Bello had possibly diverted money meant for civil servants, to issues of his election.
“We are highly suspicious of the movement of the money especially at this time where four appellants are challenging his purported election at the appeal tribunal,” EMA said.
“We also note that towards the end of the case at the lower tribunal, the state governor approved the movement from the infrastructure account the sum of N1.7billion naira account purportedly for a contract to Lebanese Company, MAJ Global construction Company ltd, owned by one Michel Abboud as CEO.”
TheCable saw documents of N1.7 billion for the renovation of 17 units of houses within government house, Lokoja.
Some of the buildings listed for renovation were the residences of secretary to the state government (SSG), accountant-general, chief security officer (CSO), director-general of protocol, Imam’s residence, among others.
EMA said its investigation showed that no renovation whatsoever was taking place at the buildings. It also said the amount budgeted for the exercise is outrageous.
“Now the question is why did the government award such contracts without advertising them? Even if the contracts were advertised, how could a single company win all the bids in such a competitive environment as we have in Nigeria today?” the organisation asked.
“Looking at the contract details and the figures as stated below, how much does it even cost to construct a new building that a poor state like Kogi would be renovating buildings at these staggering sums ?
“We note with shock that most of the payments to the contractors are done in cash at government house apparently to facilitate movement of cash.”
The organisation also alleged that the governor and his aides had been moving money in a suspicious manner in recent times. It said there could be plans to use the money to influence the outcome of the court judgement on Bello’s election.
“Our suspicion of movement of cash especially at this time when judgment in the Appeal case against the governor is to be delivered was aroused when the State Government opened a new Sub TREASURY Account called ‘Govt House Admin’ account number 1010662710 with Zenith Bank,” it said.
“The shocking aspect is that the sum of N100 Million is now daily drawn in cash from this account for the past two weeks!
“Meanwhile, the other old ‘Govt House Admin’ account with the same Zenith bank has a negative balance of N498,157,883 unserviced. The question is: ‘Why would Zenith Bank allow another account to be opened in the name of Govt House Admin?’ What is the chief of staff doing with the alleged over one billion naira cash ferried in his black G-Wagon Mercedes Benz to Abuja last week?
“Time is here for the EFCC and ICPC to move into Kogi for a clinical review of the criminal rape of the commonwealth of the long-suffering people of the state before it gets out of hand.”
When contacted Kingsley Fanowo, chief press secretary to the governor, did not confirm or deny the allegations, he only said: “I will get back to you with the facts soon.”