Port Harcourt — Rivers State Commission of Inquiry on the Sale of Valued Assets set up by Governor Nyesom Wike, yesterday, submitted its report, claiming that N53 billion belonging to the state was allegedly diverted by the previous administration.
In a swift reaction, however, the media office of former Governor Rotimi Amaechi, said the purported “missing” N53 billion, was unfortunate and left much to be desired, describing the report as a last ditch trump card “in the hope that it will diminish the former governor’s towering stature as a statesman and honest Nigerian.”
Head of the commission of inquiry, Justice George Omereji, while submitting the report, said the commission received 27 memos and 142 exhibits, while 25 witnesses testified before it.
He called on the state government to act fast on the report, saying: “We hope that the government should act fast and by the time the government looks into this report and acts fast, it will be able to recover billions that are still stashed where they kept them. That money belongs to Rivers people and I hope that the government should act fast and recover the funds so that we can use it for the people of Rivers State.”
Receiving the report, Governor Wike assured that the report would be implemented and that it would not be like other reports of commissions that were not acted upon by previous administrations.
He said: “This will not be like other report. We will make sure that we swing into action immediately to see that the recommendations made by the commission are implemented. We will not be intimidated by anybody or group of persons. Many things have been done to discredit the commission. But for me, it is when your hands are not clean that you begin to use the media to discredit people’s work.”
Speaking with newsmen after the submission, Justice Omereji claimed that N53 billion belonging to the state was allegedly diverted by the previous administration.
He said among other things, the commission recommended that those behind the alleged missing funds should be made to refund them.
He said: “On the billions of naira said to have been stashed away in some places, there was the sum of N55 billion in the State Reserve Fund. Between 2014 and May 2015, they were able to remove N53 billion and we found out that the N53 billion was not used for the projects in the state.
“The money went to individuals. From the papers submitted to us, we also found out that the money was given to people they like. We went to the site of the Justice Karibi Whyte Hospital, we did not see anything at all.”
A statement from Amaechi’s Media Office, read in part: “The mischief is all the more evident as the funds referred to are funds from the Rivers State reserve fund which was duly approved by the Rivers State House of Assembly and whose expenditure were duly captured and accounted for. Ordinarily, we might not have responded to the mischief of Mr. Wike knowing that having failed with his various desperate tactics to stop Amaechi’s nomination as a minister, he has embarked on this last ditch effort which is his trump card in the hope that it will diminish the former governor’s towering stature as a statesman and an honest Nigerian.
“However, in keeping with Governor Amaechi’s ethos of transparent and accountable leadership, we will again repeat the facts of the matter. Between 2013 and early 2015, revenue accruing to the government of Rivers State was cut in half due to dwindling federal allocation to states. From about an average of N20 billion, the state began to receive between N9 billion and N10 billion. By the middle of the first quarter of 2015 the state revenue dipped to as low as N6 billion. Salaries alone stood at over N9 billion besides other expenses. Government has set aside a reserve fund as a rainy day fund and had need to fall back to it to fund salaries and projects. The details of the expenditure were clearly captured and this information which was already in the public domain was shared with the incoming administration and the Omereji panel.”
The statement added that “government business should be transparent and honest and if indeed Mr. Nyesom Wike understands the basics of governance, then he should know that rather than playing to the gallery with his red herring of a panel, he should simply go to court and prove his spurious allegations of corruption. He should go to court if he is sure there is corruption. Spending resources left behind for the betterment of Rivers people by a prudent and thrifty government on frivolities is indeed irresponsible and unbecoming for a person who aspires to public office, especially that of the exalted office of governor.”