By Adibe Emenyonu in Benin City
Some aggrieved members of the Prison Services Cooperative Society in Edo State command of the Nigerian Prison Service (NPS) have raised the alarm over alleged embezzlement and diversion N563.5 million by the management of the cooperative.
The alarm was sequel to the secrecy which they claimed shrouded the running of the cooperative society by a few cabal whose activities have for years kept most members in the dark.
The huge sum is an accumulated amount which forms part of N13.5m monthly deductions by the prison authority at the headquarters in Abuja, from salaries of staff who constitute membership of the cooperative society.
Already, members of the NPS cooperative society are calling on the Comptroller General of Prison Jafaru Ahmed, the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) and the Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Commission (ICPC), as well as the police toÂ Â quickly investigate the alleged massive looting.
The tip-off of the alleged corruption was blown open when the President of the Cooperative Society in Edo, Mr. Uyi Uwaifo, allegedly in connivance with the Benin Comptroller of Prison, Osayande Amadi (Patron) of the cooperative, deliberately refused to convene an Annual General Meeting (AGM), of the body between 2013 to date, a meeting which they hoped would review the financial status of the cooperative knowing that auditors will peruse the account.
The alleged fraud became more pronounced when Uwaifo was said to have instructed the treasurer of the cooperative, Mrs. Theresa Idiake, to sign blank cheques to withdraw money from the bank account of the body.
In a swift reaction however, the leadership of NPS in the state and executive members of the cooperative described the allegations by the aggrieved cooperators as Â baseless and unfounded.
They challenged any of the aggrieved members with facts of the alleged embezzlement to go to the EFCC or to the zonal Comptroller General of the NPS.Â
President of the cooperative society, Uyi Uwaifo, who made the clarifications on behalf of the body and Â state Comptroller, attributed the delayed AGM to the inability of the executive to update its financial records and non amendment of its constitution.Â
He said the figure mentioned by the aggrieved members is too bogus; adding that the society does not even have such amount in their account.
â€œThey can engage the services of auditors or if they have anything against us I want them to go the EFCC and ICPC. There was no time a blank cheque was signed for any transaction. Agreed, our tenure had expired since May; Â we had issues which was later resolved. We were asked to amend our constitution and dissolved the exco,â€ he stated.
He added: â€œWe are waiting for the Financial Secretary to update the records. The state Controller of Prisons has asked us to schedule a date for our AGM, which is already in process. So, these are some of the complaints, it wasnâ€™t deliberate.
Be that as it may, a member of the cooperative who did not want his name mentioned for fear of persecution said, â€œFrom the same blank cheques another DCP Andrew Egbobawaye is running a money lending business from the cooperative account which we also suspect was reason for the migration from one bank account to another to cover up their fraudulent deals.â€
They also alleged that the state Controller of operating a separate account for the Prison Staff School located within the staff quarters in Benin, the state capital.
THISDAY further learnt that the separate private account has denied the federal government of expected revenue, which was also debunked.
The sources further pointed out that a grand plot to cover up the fraud include the alleged transfer and threat of sack against any member who dares oppose the management of the co-operative society.
According to them, the president of the cooperative society with the strong backing of the state Controller has vehemently resisted attempts by members to elect new executive to run the affairs of the body even when his tenure and members of his executive had long elapsed, pointing out that all the account books regarding the activities of the cooperative society are still with him.