A fraud of N2.5 billion is said to have rocked the Delta State Hospital Management Board Multi-Purpose Cooperative Society II; (HMBMPCSll), SaharaReporters has learnt.
The fraud involved an executive committee of the board who connived with some officials of the state government to embezzle N2.5 billion of health workers' savings, thereby leading to the untimely death of some of the workers.
It was gathered that health workers in the employment of the State Hospital Management Board, including retirees who were encouraged to save through the thrift scheme referred to as Health Workers Cooperative Savings, had not been able to access their savings following the fraud.
One of them, who spoke on the condition of anonymity said, "We, the workers, pay our monthly subscription which is deducted from our salaries at source by the state government through the Hospital Management Board and remitted to the Cooperative Society (from) which workers don't get a dime.
"The former treasurer of the cooperative who also doubled as chairman connived with some top government officials and embezzled over N1.5 billion belonging to the workers. The then treasurer was made a sole administrator with the backing of the two compromised Permanent Secretaries, in the Hospital Management Board and that of the Ministry of Commerce and Industry."
Continuing, he claimed, "After the exit of the former treasurer when workers thought we had got a sigh of relief, the Whisky Azino committee continued with the fraud and over a billion naira was embezzled and to date, workers haven't got a dime from their savings in the cooperative society."
The state government in 2016 had through the state HMB and Ministry of Commerce and Industry set up the Azino caretaker committee with a mandate to organize annual general meeting within six months and elect new executive but that had yet to be done.
Speaking with SaharaReporters on the alleged N2.5 billion fraud, a member of the cooperative, Mr. Aggerh Aaron, noted that the fraud could be attributed to the lingering leadership crisis rocking the cooperative society.
“These present executives put in power and was supposed to spend six months but has spent up to two years now, they have not conducted AGM, neither have they given any statement of account of how the cooperative is faring.
"If you want to withdraw your membership, they will not stop deduction, if you write a letter to stop deduction to the board, the letter will not be attended to. People who are retiring are not being paid anything.
"They are suffering.
"No single account concerning the cooperative, and the executives are receiving cheques of over N40 million every month as our deduction from the state government yet workers don't get a penny. For the period under review over N2.5 billion has grew wings and flew from the cooperative society."
Also speaking, a retiree, Joseph Udughe who lamented that he and many others who retired from the civil service could not be paid by the cooperative society, adding that for seven years many health workers who retired could not access their funds.
Udughe said, "The situation is very pathetic because the supervisory ministries are playing games with the welfare of the workers. The aim of joining the cooperative is to get your money six months after retirement. Your personal money deducted for such you can't access it. What a corrupt country and people."
When contacted, the leader of the caretaker committee of the hospital management board cooperative society, Whisky Azino, said he could not talk on the telephone.
"I won’t be able to disclose anything with you regarding the cooperative because I don’t know who I am talking to. Who reported this issue to you? Who are the bodies that reported the issues of the cooperative to you?"
The Commissioner for Commerce and Industry, Chika Ossai, said he was not aware of the crisis rocking the cooperative society.
However, the Director of Cooperative Societies, Onyeapu Chukwudi, told SaharaReporters that "the ministry was aware of the crisis."
Similarly, the Commissioner for Information, Charles Aniagwu, stated that he was aware that the state government released N1 billion each to all recognized cooperative societies in the state.