Benue and Imo states allegedly diverted money meant for the payment of workers’ salaries. This is according to a report by the Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Commission, which monitored how states spent the N338bn bailout fund given to them by the Federal Government.
The report was signed by Mustapha Hussain on behalf of the Commissioner, Public Enlightenment. It was released on Friday in Abuja.
It will be recalled that Buhari had last year approved the sum of N338bn for 27 states that were unable to pay salaries. Some of the states had been unable to pay over 10 months’ salary arrears and pensions.
Vice-President Yemi Osinbajo, who heads the National Economic Council, had explained that the loan is repayable at an interest rate of nine per cent over a 20-year period and it is “solely for the purpose of paying the backlog of salaries.”
However, the report issued by the ICPC on Friday showed that Benue and Imo states were found wanting, while a few other states were found to still be owing salaries, an indication that the funds may have been mismanaged.
The report comes less than a month after the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission arrested the Principal Secretary to the Governor, Dr. Pascal Obi and two others — Uzoho Casmir and Iheoma Kenneth — who were described by the EFCC as the director of finance and treasurer respectively.
The fresh report by the ICPC states that, “Imo State applied for and received bailout funds of N26, 806, 430, 000.00 from the Central Bank of Nigeria which were domiciled with two commercial banks namely Fidelity and Zenith banks. In the course of analysis, it was discovered that some transfers were made into certain Imo State Government accounts which are not related to salaries and emoluments are as follows: N2bn paid into a Government Account; N2bn into an Imo State Project account; N2bn transferred into microfinance bank; and a management fee of N21, 017, 810.00 was paid into an unspecified account.”
According to the report, Benue State received over N12bn that was meant for the payment of salaries but mysteriously paid over N70m into the account of the Office of the Deputy Governor.
The report states, “In Benue State, the total debt accrued from staff salaries and emoluments amounted to N12, 503, 439, 787. 48. The state received N12, 503, 439, 787.48 as bailout fund and disbursed N10, 852, 536, 702.96 with a balance of N1, 650, 903, 084.52. Analysis of the documents submitted revealed a double payment of N37, 760, 000.00 in favour of the Office of the Deputy Governor. This double payment is presently being investigated.”
In the case of Osun State, the ICPC stated that the state received N34.9bn as bailout and it disbursed N16.3bn. However, the report adds that the commission is investigating allegations that the state had not paid salaries since July 2015.
“The commission is verifying allegations that Osun State public servants have only been paid salaries up to July 2015,” the report states.
The media aide to Osun State Governor, Mr. Semiu Okanlawon, when contacted said he could not speak where he was and asked our correspondent to send him a text.
Replying the text, Okanlawon wrote, “The story that Punch should be interested in is, what has become of all those petitions when their petitioners are asked to come forward to substantiate their petitions?
“Punch should find out and report to the world what is ICPC’s rating of Aregbesola in handling of Osun finances and not only about bailout. If anything, Aregbesola would be awarded medals for prudent and creative managment of meagre resources to achieve the greatest good for the greatest number of the Osun people.
“What Punch should tell the world is the motive of the faceless petitioners who when called to defend their claims, vanished. In what way is that different from the usual blackmail all aimed at distracting his government?
“This is not the first time idle hands would claim in the media that have petitioned against Aregbesola. It is all to score cheap political points.”
However, the Consultant to Osun State Government on Information, Mr. Sunday Akere, had said in an interview with our correspondent that the allegation that the governor diverted the bailout fund was baseless.
He said this in a reaction to the allegation by the Peoples Democratic Party that the governor diverted the fund.
Akere said the state government used the bailout for the purpose it was meant while challenging the opposition party to seek clarification from the workers.
He said, “The PDP in Osun does not merit any response. They issue releases just to let the people out there know that they are still around. They are doing this to draw attention to themselves.
“They always display their ignorance despite that they have moles in the system. They should ask their moles . The bailout covered December 2014 to June 2015 and we have paid these. Pension was not part of the bailout and despite this, we paid pensioners.”
However, the Osun State chapter of the APC in a statement issued by its spokesperson, Mr. Kunle Oyatomi, last Wednesday appealed to the Federal Government to give the state and others having difficulties in paying their workers a fresh bailout.
The statement read, “We are therefore appealing to President Muhammadu Buhari and the Federal Government to help the affected states out of this crisis.
“We are approaching an emergency on this crisis, because not only is the crisis spreading like wild fire across states, it is assuming a dimension that would seriously affect the economy of the country.”
“To avoid an emergency that could create difficulties for the economy in the next decade, the Federal Government must address the problem now, even it means having recourse to our reserves.
“What was cynically thought to be an Osun problem is now suddenly a national emergency which the Federal Government can ill afford to ignore.
‘We cannot play the ostrich in a situation as critical as this.
“Those politicians who only few months ago were mocking the state of Osun and cynically offering their salaries to pay workers in Osun have suddenly become quiet now that their own states are owing between six and 10 months’ salaries, especially in Bayelsa.”