Judicial Commission Of Inquiry Probing Rotimi Amaechi’s Administration Has Given Details Of How A CBN Agric Loan Was Shared To Politicians In The State
Inaugural sitting of the Justice George Omereji-led Judicial Commission of Inquiry investigating management of assets belonging to Rivers State by the Rotimi Amaechi administration, was entertained to details of how a Central Bank of Nigeria loan, totaling N4 billion, secured by the administration for agricultural purposes, was allegedly shared among politicians in the state. Counsel to the Commission, Dr.Zacheus Andangor, who reeled out names of former commissioners and local council chairmen who allegedly benefited from the N4 billion loan, also listed how much each of them received from the booty sharing.
But alleged principal actor in the N4billion agriculture loan saga, Mr. Emma Chinda, who was Commissioner for Agriculture during the time, stayed away from Monday’s sitting, despite being duly informed as claimed by the Commission’s counsel.
Andangor however told the commission that Amaechi approved conversion of the loan to grant to his associates, in the guise of financing co-operative societies. “All the political associates of the former Governor got the grants under the platform of 380 mother cooperative societies which were mainly drawn from the wards of the state and other principal interest groups of the former governor”, the Commission was told.
According to him, the grants were not to be refunded. He also alleged that the N4 billion was shared to all the recipients a “few days to the Presidential election on March 28, 2015 and Governorship election on April 11, 2015”.
Listing key associates of the former governor who received the grant, the Commission’s counsel named “former Council Chairman of Ogba/ Ndoni/Egbema (ONELGA) Local Government Area, who was President ONELGA Cooperative Society. His Society received N32.1million grant.
Also a former Vice Chairman of Port Harcourt City LGA received N134.6million as President of Port Harcourt Integrated Cooperative Society. Former Chairman of Asari Toru LGA received N54.8million on behalf of Asari-Toru Cooperative Society”.
He also listed former chairmen who headed cooperative societies to receive grants include those of Eleme LGA, and Ogu/Bolo LGA. Testifying before the Judicial Service Commission yesterday, a witness, Mr Chijioke Grant Amadi, who served as the Chairman of the Agriculture Credit Committee, said the committee had no terms of reference and all decisions on who got what from the disbursements were taken by the former State Commissioner for Agriculture.
Amadi, who is a Director of Planning, Research and Statistics at the Rivers State Ministry of Agriculture, said the Agric Commissioner merely sent him a list of beneficiaries with specific directive to instruct the banks to pay expeditiously to the benefiting cooperative societies. He alleged before a stunned audience that no due diligence was carried out to ascertain those behind the cooperatives, claiming that he was hearing for the first time that key beneficiaries of the grants were top politicians.
Asked if he made any attempt to verify if the grants were used for the purpose for which they were released, Amadi told the commission that he was directed not to venture into such endeavour, adding that even if he wanted to do so, “the State Ministry of Agriculture had no functional vehicle to carry out monitoring”.
Also testifying, Permanent Secretary of the State Ministry of Agriculture, Mrs. O.I. Okoye informed that though she was chief accounting officer of the ministry, she was not privy to details of the operations of the committee which disbursed the grants. She noted that the Committee set up by the former Commissioner of Agriculture, excluded her.
According to her, of the N4billion loan secured from the Central Bank of Nigeria, the former governor approved the disbursement of N3.11billion, which she said he also ordered to be converted to ordinary grants to beneficiaries. Permanent Secretary at the Ministry of Commerce and Industry, Mrs. Cordelia Peterside, who also testified, informed the commission that of the 380 Cooperative Societies, 38 were not duly registered. She disclosed that the 38 had no records at the Commerce and Trade Ministry.
Meanwhile, the commission continues sitting tomorrow when it is expected that the Agric commissioner would appear having been re-summoned. The commission warned that his failure to appear would force it to invoke powers conferred on it by the State Commission of Inquiry law to compel him.