No Rivers State fund was misappropriated by Amaechi’s govt – Ex-commissioners
PORT HARCOURT —
Former Rivers State commissioners who served during the tenure of Ex-Governor Rotimi Amaechi, weekend, in Port Harcourt, dismissed the report of misappropriated Rivers State funds during Mr. Amaechi’s tenure, as claimed by the Rivers State Judicial Commission of Inquiry.
They insisted that the report of the commission was not only a product of illegality, but also that the allegations of misappropriation of public funds were mere fabrications to malign Amaechi and those who worked with him.
The ex-commissioners, at a briefing, contended that it was illegal for a governor to set up a panel of inquiry based on mind- set, claiming that Governor Nyesom Wike and the chairman of the judicial commission of inquiry, Justice George Omereji, had allegedly set their minds on issues to be investigated by the commission before it even commenced proceedings. Some of the former commissioners at the briefing were Mrs. Ibim Semenitari, who was Commissioner for Information; Finance, Mr Chamberlain Peterside; Agriculture, Mr Emma Chinda; Power, Mr Austin Wokocha and Transport, Mr George Tolofari, among others.
The former commissioners insisted that they all left handover notes in their various ministries before bowing out on May 29. They recalled that Wike was the Chief of Staff to former Governor Amaechi at the time the decision was taken to construct a monorail to ease traffic congestion in Port Harcourt metropolis, noting that it was a collective decision of the state executive council.
They said that budgetary allocations for the project were expended on it, noting that at the time the project took off due process law was not in force in the state, but as soon as it was enacted, drivers of the project started interfacing with the necessary quarters in relation to the law on the project,
They said: “The decision to construct the Rivers Monorail Project was jointly adopted by the Rivers State Executive Council during Amaechi’s first tenure when the present governor, Chief Wike, was the Chief of Staff to the Governor at the time. When the decision to construct the monorail was taken, there was no Due Process law in existence in the state. But it should be noted that after the enactment of the Due Process law, the monorail project owner engineers, Arcus Gibb and officials of the Rivers State Ministry of Transport were constantly briefing and keeping the Due process team up to date on all issues as they related to the project. This fact can be backed up with several minutes of meetings between the Due Process team, officials of the Ministry of Transport and Arcus Gibb.”
the ex- commissioners said the global financial meltdown was the reason the private partner for the project could not fulfil its own end of the financial deal.
They said a committee headed by the former deputy governor recommended that government then should still go ahead with the project in spite of the failure of the private partner to implement its own part.
The ex-commissioners said: “It should also be highlighted that after the PPP (Public Private Partnership) partners, TSI Property and Investment Holdings Ltd, pulled out of the project because of its inability to contribute its own 80% equity contribution (Due to the financial crash of 2008).
The former deputy governor, Engr. Tele Ikuru, headed an Executive Council committee to review and recommend if the Rivers State Government should continue with the project. The committee recommended that government should continue with the construction of the monorail project with Arcus Gibb acting as the project consultants.”
According to them, the first phase of the monorail project measuring about 2.6 kilometre was technically completed, stressing that the project should not be abandoned as it would ease traffic for business to thrive, saying, “The monorail project is even more significant now given the recent fall in the price of oil and the need for government to create a conducive environment for local business to thrive. There is no better way to help local businesses thrive than putting in place a proper transport infrastructure network.
Extent of work “By the end of Mr. Amaechi’s tenure, two stations had been completed, Azikiwe and UTC stations. The Depot and Sharks Park stations were already 80% completed. The train has been mounted and tested. In fact, the first phase of the project (2.6 km stretch) could be said to have been technically completed. It is infantile and the height of irresponsibility to request that N33 billion be returned to the Rivers State Government. It shows a complete lack of understanding of the rudiments of governance and infrastructural developments.”
Agricultural credit loan scheme On the agricultural credit loan scheme allegedly shared as grant to ex-council chairmen during governor Amaechi’s tenure, the former commissioners said 380 mother cooperative societies benefited from it, stressing that the records were in the ministry,
They said: “About N3.1 billion was disbursed from the funds leaving behind about N900 million with Rivers State Ministry of Agriculture account for the completion of the projects.”
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