Monday, August 24, 2015

Amaechi used N4billion Agriculture loan from CBN for political patronage/general elections, Judicial Commission of Inquiry told


Rivers State indigenes and residents who turned out for the inaugural sitting of the Justice George Omereji-led Judicial Commission of Inquiry investigating the administration of Rotimi Amaechi over the sale of valued state assets and other matters were shocked as the counsel to the Commission, Dr Zacheus Andangor reeled out names and figures of former commissioners and local council chairmen who benefited from the N4billion loan obtained from the Central Bank of Nigeria to improve agriculture.
Also, principal actor in the N4billion agriculture loan saga, Mr Emma Chinda stayed away from Monday’s sitting. Counsel to the Commission, Dr Zacheus Adangor informed the commission that he was duly invited to testify.He declared that another invitation has been extended to the former Agriculture Commissioner to appear on Tuesday, August 25, failure which the Commission would invoke its inherent powers in the State Commission of Inquiry law to compel him to appear before it.The Former Governor approved the conversion of the repayable loan to grant which will not be repaid for his associates who received the grants few days to the Presidential election on March 28, 2015 and Governorship election on April 11, 2015.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.Key associates of the former governor who received the grant apparently meant for the prosecution of the 2015 General elections include: Former Council Chairman of Ogba/Ndoni/Egbema (ONELGA) Local Government Area, Mr Austin Ahiamadu, who was President ONELGA Cooperative Society. His Society received N32.1million grant. Also Mr Nnamdi Uche, who was a former Vice Chairman of Port Harcourt City LGA received N134.6million as President of Port Harcourt Integrated Cooperative Society, Mr Ojukaye Amachree, former Chairman of Asari Toru LGA received N54.8million on behalf of Asari-Toru Cooperative Society. Other former chairmen who headed Cooperative Societies to receive grants include Mr Orji Ngofa of Eleme LGA, Mr Felix Nweke and Mr Mena Diende of Ogo/Bolo LGA.Testifying before the Judicial Service Commission on Monday, Mr Chijioke Grant Amadi, the Director of Planning, Research and Statistics of the Rivers State Ministry of Agriculture, who served as the Chairman of the Agriculture Credit Committee, said the committee had no terms of reference and all decisions of those who benefitted from the disbursement were taken by the former State Commissioner for Agriculture, Mr Emma Chinda.Mr Amadi said that Mr Chinda merely sent him the list of beneficiaries with the specific directive to instruct the banks to pay expeditiously to the benefiting cooperative societies. He told 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 the key beneficiaries of the grants were top politicians.Asked if he ever made any attempt to verify if the grants were used for the purpose for which they were released, Amadi noted that he was directed not to venture into such endeavour. He added that even if he wanted to do so, the State Ministry of Agriculture had no functional vehicle under former Governor Rotimi Amaechi to carry out monitoring.Also testifying, Permanent Secretary of the State Ministry of Agriculture, Mrs O.I. Okoye informed that though she was the chief accounting officer of the Ministry, she was not privy to the details of the operations of the Committee that disbursed the grants. She noted that the Committee set up by the former Commissioner of Agriculture, Emma Chinda excluded her.She said that of the N4billion loan secured from the Central Bank of Nigeria, the former governor approved the disbursement of N3.11billion, which he former approved should be converted to ordinary grants to beneficiaries. The state will not bear the cost of repayment.Mrs Cordelia Peterside, Permanent Secretary, State Ministry of Commerce and Industry informed that even out of the 380 Cooperative Societies through which the politicians received the free grants, 38 were not duly registered, hence they had no records at her Ministry.

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