• Alleges withdrawal of over N16bn through ALGON
By Iyobosa Uwugiaren and Chineme Okafor in Abuja
Katsina State government has disclosed that it would institute legal action against its immediate past governor, Alhaji Ibrahim Shema and some officials of his government to refund about N73 billion they allegedly misappropriated while in office.
Governor Aminu Bello Masari said yesterday in Abuja that the government had instituted an independent panel of inquiry to look into allegation by his government that funds that accrued to the state when Shema was in charge were massively misused.
He stated in a session with journalists that his government had looked into the books of his predecessor and discovered that huge sums were paid out to his cronies and other officials of the government without any form of task or contracts tied to them.
He also said that the state had no record of any project on which the monies were expended.
For example, Masari alleged that a special arrangement was created by the last government to divert as much as 30 per cent of whatever capital funds that were allocated to the local government in the state to accounts kept by the state’s Association of Local Government of Nigeria (ALGON).
He said up to N16 billion was paid into the accounts but that the money finally ended up in the pockets of government officials with no project executed.
He also explained that funds that were disbursed to the state’s SURE-P were never used for projects they were meant for, adding that the panel of inquiry will look into these and verify if the discoveries were right.
The governor however said that whatever the panel came up with, the state government would eventually take the past officials to court to get refunds of the monies.
He said his government had also been fair to the accused officials and had asked them to come up to defend their actions before the panel.
“We are not really investigating our predecessor. The transition committee made some findings. Monies that came into the government coffers and went out, this is the money we are asking where they are,” said Masari.
He further stated: “The fact of the matter is that we are not probing, what we are asking for is that we have seen money that came in and went out, now what did you do with the money. If there are projects that were done, let us see.
“We have made an allegation, we have empaneled a commission of enquiry to ascertain the N73 billion we are alleging has been misappropriated; where and who are responsible, it is only after we do that, we will go to court.”
“We decided as a government on our own to establish this and there is an allegation and an opportunity is given to those who are indicted to come and defend it, we cannot be any fairer than that but the outcome will definitely end up in court”.
He gave details of how ALGON was allegedly used to fleece the state, saying: “Everybody knows what ALGON is and it is an association of local governments but one government gave orders in writing signed by the governor that from the joint account of the government, whatever capital budget the local governments are doing, 30 per cent of that should go to the ALGON, but to do what?
“We tracked down the money, no contract was given, ALGON is not an institution, neither is it a government parastatal or agency but from the records in the banks that we have, they have withdrawn all the monies that were given to them, and through this system, they had withdrawn over N16 billion over the period.
“It is natural to ask where this money is; this government has not investigated the funds its predecessor said were used for capital projects in the state.
“The 70 per cent which they said they spent on capital projects, we have not investigated it, and so if we are investigating the government, certainly contractors will be involved and there are no contractors that we have invited to explain what he has done for a particular project or why the pricing for a particular project.
“We didn’t do that, what we have said was the money cash that left government coffers and ended up with some people, all we are saying is this people who collected this money should come and tell the Katsina people where the money is.
“In the same ministry of local government, the permanent secretary withdrew N9 billion cash; the same thing with SURE-P, billions of naira were withdrawn cash. What have you done with it?
Continuing, he stated: “Throughout the life of SURE-P in Katsina State, they never issued any cheque neither did they undertake any contract, all the monies of SURE-P where withdrawn cash.
“Is it not right to ask for the money? We are asking that this is the money that came into government coffers and these are the officials that took the money, I think it is legitimate to ask where the money is.”
He said about N1.99 billion was approved by the federal government through the Ecological Fund for the state to construct drainages in Katsina town but the contractor made away with parts of the money without completing his job.
“If it is a probe, it will be public because companies and contractors and individuals will be involved. We have never asked for the contracts that was given, the only one we asked was for a drainage right inside Katsina capital city which was for N1.99 billion and the person who collected 90 per cent of the payment collected over N1.7 billion and he has not done the job, we got an independent person to value the project and it was a maximum of N700 million.
“He has abandoned site and the money given to him was not backed by any guarantee but we said if he cannot come and complete the job then return it.
“The money was collected from the ecological fund here in Abuja and he didn’t do the job. I think in all the money we are asking for, this is the only item that involved a contract because when we traced it we discovered that somebody collected the money but work was not done,” he said.