Foundation for Environmental Rights Advocacy and Development (FENRAD), has called the Abia State House of Assembly’s Committee on Public Accounts Anti-corruption and Due Process investigate alleges missing N200m SMEs microfinance bank fund.
In a statement, made available to The Moment Nigeria by Head, Legal Team, FENRAD, Barr. Olusegun Bamgbose, appealed to the committee of the seventh state assembly to, as the representatives and hope of the people, leave no stone unturned in its constitutional and oversight function regarding the ongoing enquiry into the allege money of Small and Medium Scale Enterprises Microfinance Bank fraud.
He noted: “FENRAD is aware that in 2015, borne out of the need to boost small scale and micro businesses and to integrate informal sectors of the economy into the main sector, Governor Okezie Ikpeazu achieved a novelty by creating for the very first time a ministry for small and medium scale enterprises. This was, as we learns, in a bid to ensure that artisans, traders and other small businesses apart from growing sustainably, contribute to development drive of the state government.
“The new ministry, in line with its development goals, proposed to, Ikpeazu that a microfinance bank for small and medium enterprises (SMEs) be established to help small businesses whereupon the governor set up a high-powered committee to ensure that both the proposal and other matters regarding the ministry were taken care of, but due largely to the inability to timely access funds – said to be in the neighborhood of N100, 000, 000.00 for operational licence from the apex bank, the Central Bank of Nigeria ( CBN), the process staggered.
“We also gathered, that while the status quo was this, certain individuals within the committee, allegedly without due process or appropriation, obtained from Keystone Bank (a money deposit bank, not the CBN this time) the sum of N200,000,00.00. Names of certain persons have been mentioned in various media publications in this matter too.
“The CBN has strongly denied having any ties with the fund which was received as loan under the pretext of helping the indigent citizens of Abia State. Again, there is to be found today neither office nor headquarters anywhere in each of the seventeen LGAs, as was the plan initially, in the state barring a non-functional office situated at House Number 17b Ngwa Road after three years of securing loan,” he explained.
Bamgbose further said the house committee may not know that the interest tied to principal of the said loan is not known nor is it a matter of public record at the moment.
“What is lamentable however is that upon resumption of office as commissioner in the SMEs Ministry, Mr. Onyema Nwacukwu had alleged that only N40, 000, 000.00 was remaining in the coffers. As was seen in the news, Mr. Udochukwu Ogbonna, former state Board of Internal Revenue head had gone to ‘pay back’ the sum of N200, 000, 000. 00 to the bank without appropriation – as the news said further.
“FENRAD urges the chairman of the honourable committee to, in his knowledge and wisdom, subpoena all parties said to be absent during the last hearing to the chambers and have the committee ask them, as true representatives of the people, critical questions on: how the loan was secured; who were the signatories; at what interest and who benefited from the loan for a period of three years and their names (if any).
“We wishes to express its thanks and support to the committee for ideally stepping into this matter as is both constitutional and legitimate. Abians want to hear the last of this whole thing and their hope in a time like this is only on the committee,” he added.