N400m cash in septic tank
•Opposition groups demand probe of Bayelsa sanitation agency
Opposition parties and civil society groups in Bayelsa State have demanded a probe into the alleged disappearance of over N400 million at the country home of the Chairman of the Environment Sanitation Authority, Mr. Reginald Dede. The robbery, which reportedly took place penultimate week at Kongo community, Akassa, Brass Local Government Area of the state was carried out by boys who were armed to the teeth. Eyewitness account said when the boys got to Dede’s house, they headed straight to the septic tank where they discovered both hard and local currencies. After the robbery, some people were said to have been arrested by the police. An impeccable police source confided in Daily Sun that those arrested by the police in connection with the robbery were still undergoing interrogation. However, opposition parties and civil society groups are calling on the Economic Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) and the Presidency to investigate the matter to determine where Dede got such huge money.In separate statements, National Union of Political Parties (NUPP), Political Alliance for Good Governance (PAGG) and the Action Congress (AC) said the Federal Government should demonstrate its sincerity to fight corruption by probing the incident. NUPP, in its statement signed by Mr. Edwin Tare and Ekiye Maxwell, chairman and secretary respectively carpeted Dede saying since he assumed office as chairman of the agency, “wages of sanitation workers have been stunted,” adding that “workers sometimes would not be paid for three or four months.” It said the state government had never been serious with the welfare of the workers who were mostly women. Bobo Atari-Adou, publicity secretary of PAGG, in its statement, said the group noted with disbelief that such huge money could be hidden in a septic tank when workers of the sanitation authority were being owed six months salaries. It called on President Goodluck Jonathan to listen to the voice of reason and direct a probe into alleged financial recklessness in the state. The AC, in its statement, endorsed by its Chairman, Miriki Ebikibina challenged Governor Timipre Sylva and the state House of Assembly to investigate the matter and sanction Dede if found guilty to serve as a deterrent to other government officials who believed cases of corruption could be treated with levity. The state Commissioner for Information, Orientation and Strategy, Mr. Nathan Egba, however denied knowledge of the incident, stressing that it was a personal matter which only Dede could comment on. When approached for his comments at the Governor’s Lodge in Yenagoa, Dede declined, declaring that he did not want to talk about the incident. Meanwhile, political leaders in Sagbama have risen in defence of the council Chairman, Mr. Perez Peretus over allegation of corruption and high-handedness levelled against him. Peretus who has been in the eye of the storm following his disagreement with a top government functionary has been accused of massive fraud and securing a loan facility for the council without authorisation. In a statement by the Secretary of the council on behalf of the leaders, Mr. Mirin Johnson, the leaders noted that the council took the loan of N45 million for the payment of April salaries due to the shortfall in the allocation that accrued to the council from the federation account. According to the leaders, the loan which was with the full knowledge of the Ministry of Local Government and Chieftaincy Affairs was used for a purpose which the people could attest to. The leaders commended Peretus for engaging in the settlement of debts incurred by past administrations, the provision of internet facility, the launch of a functional website for the council, the overhauling of electrical systems in Sagbama town, the purchase of five plots of land in Yenagoa to construct a befitting ultramodern liaison office complex with a view to generating revenue and the ongoing construction of a new office building. While noting that the “claim of fraud against the council chairman is a deliberate crusade by some politicians against the rising profile of the council chairman” they stressed that “investigation conducted on the charges of fraud, high-handedness and fanning ember of division among clans against the council chairman showed that they were false and only exist in the imagination of the opposition.”
Note: Bayelsa State is a major revenue earner from Nigeria’s huge oil and gas Federal Allocation. It is one of the richest states in Nigeria, but outright looting of public funds persists in the midst of pressing needs and poverty.