Connect with us

News and Report

Ebonyi Governor, Umahi, Allegedly gave N400 million COVID-19 funds to officials to build houses



The Ebonyi State Government paid N400 million of its COVID-19 funds to public officials for personal estate development in breach of its law and international guidelines, a PREMIUM TIMES review of an audit report shows.

The money was among those appropriated by the Ebonyi State House of Assembly in August 2020 for the state’s COVID-19 expenditure in the 2020 Revised Budget.

According to records obtained from the ‘Ebonyi State Government Audited COVID-19 Monthly Budget Execution Report’, the funds were, however, paid to the officials of the executive, judiciary, and legislative arms of government.

The misuse of funds in Ebonyi reinforces fears in the anti-corruption and development circle about limited accountability in the use of COVID-19 response funds by governments.

Transaction details:

Details of the financial transaction show that the money was paid to public officials either to start the development of their lands or to build houses.

About 50 per cent or N200 million of the funds, were paid as COVID-19 ‘soft loans’ to public office holders in the executive arm of government to ‘start development of their lands.’

Members of the legislative arm of government were given N100 million as COVID-19 ‘soft loan’ to start the development of their houses.

Public office holders of the judiciary arm of government also received their share, N100 million, to ‘start developing their houses,’ according to the audit report.

Records of financial transactions of the Ebonyi State Government for August 2020 show that all payments were approved 100 per cent.

Source of Funds:

Ebonyi is governed by David Umahi who recently lost his presidential bid at the primary of Nigeria’s ruling party, APC.

Despite the audit report, Mr Umahi’s government says it did no wrong with the transactions.

The Ebonyi State Accountant-General, Carlton Nwankwo, under whose office the payments were authorised, confirmed to PREMIUM TIMES that a large part of the budgeted receipts is the “state government funds that were set aside for Covid-19 management and Covid-19 recovery.”

He, however, said the housing loan to public office holders was not released from contributions or COVID-19 grants. Rather, the funds were from the coffers of the Ebonyi State Government, he said.

The accountant general said the decision to grant officials the loan was “what a section of stakeholders identified as their immediate need.”

“It is important to note that out of the actual receipts realized as of month-end August 2020, 97 per cent was from Ebonyi State Government Funds, while only 3 per cent were funds contributed by CACOVID, individuals, Federal government and private sectors,” he told PREMIUM TIMES in an email response.

Meanwhile, the guidelines of the global health body, WHO, are that “all COVID-19 transactions must certify that payment will only be used to prevent, prepare for, and respond to COVID-19.”

Similarly, the Ebonyi State CoronaVirus and Other Dangerous Infections Diseases Law also provides that “expenditures incurred and funds are spent for COVID-19 Response and Recovery Programmes.”

While the financial regulation tries to prevent funds diversion and ensure accountability, the Ebonyi State Government did the opposite by diverting the funds into the accounts of a few public officials.

But, Mr Nwankwo maintained that the COVID-19 fund, given to public officials as a house loan, was viewed as a “vehicle that would add to economic activities and the Covid-19 recovery programme in Ebonyi State.”

The Covid-19 Pandemic:

When the COVID-19 spread in 2020, restrictions put in place to control the spread of the virus caused severe socio-economic difficulties for people around the world, especially in a country like Nigeria where a large size of the population is already in the poverty trap and many have to go out daily to scrape together some money for survival.

It was at that time that the Ebonyi State Government engaged the citizenry through different mediums to establish the challenges occasioned by Covid-19 and how best the effect on our economy can be mitigated, Mr Nwankwo said.

“The State through the SFTAS programme was able to revise its budget to accommodate amendments that were necessary considering the outcome of Citizen’s/Stakeholders’ engagements,” the accountant general added. “It also made policies that included tax rebates, tax holidays, and other forms of palliatives concerning the outcome of the engagement meetings.”

A civic advocacy group, Budgit, had released a report saying the state of accountability around COVID-19 funds in the states across Nigeria was poor. It said this, partly, stems from the fact that most state governments were able to get away with the mismanagement of the funds as the government provided no legislation to punish offenders.

The organisation said most of the COVID-19 resources were converted to private use and some for political purposes.

Since 2020, Ebonyi has reported about 2,064 COVID-19 cases and 32 deaths from the virus.

Continue Reading

News and Report

Appeal Court Reinstates Adeleke As Winner Of Osun Governorship Poll



The Court of Appeal in Abuja has ruled that Governor Ademola Adeleke of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) is the winner of the Osun state governorship election.

At its sitting on Thursday, the appellate court nullified the judgement of the election tribunal declaring Gboyega Oyetola of the All Progressives Congress (APC) winner of the election.

Oyetola was declared the winner by the election tribunal after he went to court to challenge the victory of Adeleke, as announced by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC).

Delivering judgment on January 27, two out of the three-member panel held that the former governor was able to prove that there was over-voting in some of the polling units.

Adeleke had rejected the judgment, describing it as “a miscarriage of justice” and “an unfair interpretation against the will of majority of voters”.

In the 31 grounds of appeal, Adeleke begged the court for “an order setting aside the whole decision of the tribunal”.

He also sought “an order striking out the petition for want of competence and jurisdiction or in the alternative, an order dismissing the petition on the merit”.

Adeleke submitted that the tribunal exhibited bias when it said: “The second respondent cannot ‘go lo lo lo lo’ and ‘buga won’ as the duly elected governor of Osun state.”

The appellate court, in a unanimous decision by a three-member panel of Justices on Friday, held that the appeal the governor lodged to challenge his sacking by the Osun State Governorship Election Petition Tribunal, was meritorious.

Aside from setting aside the judgement of the tribunal, the court, in its lead judgement that was delivered by Justice Mohammed Lawal, awarded N500,000 cost against APC and its candidate, Oyetola.


Continue Reading

News and Report

Travel Agent, Abioye Abolaji arraigned for visa fraud linked to 77 applicants



The Police Special Fraud Unit in Lagos State has arraigned a travel agent, Abioye Abolaji, for alleged visa racketeering, including the forging of the United Nations invitation letters for no fewer than 77 visa applicants in the state.

The spokesperson for the PSFU, SP Eyitayo Johnson, in a statement on Thursday, said Abolaji was arraigned on 11 counts bordering on alleged forgery, obtaining money by false pretence, false representation and stealing.

He said, “The arrest of the suspect was in furtherance to a petition from the Diplomatic Security Services Regional Security office at the United States Consulate General, Lagos, which requested a discrete investigation into forged documents submitted by certain C-2 visa applicants to the Non-Immigrant Visa Unit of the USCG. The C-2 visa is an NIV category reserved for participants at United Nations conferences/events.

“An investigation by the USCG and the PSFU into 77 C-2 applications from 24 organisations in Nigeria to attend two separate conferences, including the 67th session of the UN Commission on the Status of Women and the UN 2023 Water Conference scheduled to take place in New York between March 22 and 24, 2023, revealed that most of the applicants are not qualified for the visa classification they applied for because the applicants provided forged UN invitation letters.

“The applicants, who claimed to be employees of Osun and Sons Agricultural Venture, Ray D. Exclusive Electrical Contractor, or ACE Technoresources Integrated Services, planned to attend the UN Water Conference as representatives or nominees of these organisations but investigation revealed that none of the organisations is in consultative status with the UN and that the employment of most of the applicants had no bearing to either of the referenced UN conferences.”

Johnson said further information elicited during police interviews of the visa applicants led to the arrest of Abolaji, who was described as the arrowhead of a notorious syndicate that specialised in visa fraud.

“Consequently, the Commissioner of Police, PSFU, Adepoju Ilori, advised prospective visa applicants to desist from patronising document vendors/visa racketeers for the processing of category B-1 and B-2 visas or any other travel documents.

The CP further encouraged applicants to research the procedure/requirements of visa for their intended country of destination or to approach the diplomatic section of the PSFU for guidance in order not to fall victim to visa racketeers. The unit is currently on the trail of other members of the syndicate,” the statement said.

Continue Reading

News and Report

I Never Told Anyone That I Will Die Soon – Odumeje



Controversial Anambra-based fiery pastor, Chukwuemeka Ohanaemere, popularly known as Odumeje has dismissed the rumour saying that he declared he would die soon.

Report had emerged that Odumeje, during Sunday service at Mountain of Holy Ghost Intervention and Deliverance Ministry, Onitsha, said he had completed his assignments on earth and was time to go.

The reports also alleged that the death announcement might not be unconnected with the demolition of part of his church recently by the State Government.

According to the reports, while the news came to some members of the congregation as surprise, others wept, saying they don’t want him to leave them soon.

But speaking on phone, Okoye described such news as untrue, saying the prophet never instructed his son, David to take care of his house after his death.

She said, is not true (that prophet Odumeje said during Church service last Sunday that he will die soon).

You know that some people when they want to destroy someone’s image, they will write something with your name and put it in a YouTube and say that you said it.

The prophet never instructed his son, David to take care of his house and that he will die soon.

Continue Reading