Foundation for Environmental Rights Advocacy and Development, FENRAD, as acronymed, an environmental rights and democracy advocacy group, received with disappointment the shocking news now making the rounds within the media space as obtained from Abia Fact, an online media publication, about missing money known as Abia State Small and Medium Scale Enterprise Microfinance bank fund (SME Microfinance bank fund).
FENRAD understands that the said racket was linked to “a high profile relative of the governor”, according to sources. Borne out of his burning desire to have in the state a ministry for small and medium scale enterprise, to engender, drive and attain the economic growth in Aba and Abia State, and with a view to ensuring creation of wealth and the class of wealthy through such ministry, Governor Okezie Ikpeazu of Abia State created an SME ministry whose commissioner, Barr. Gabe Ogbonna, thereupon proposed (via a written proposal) to the governor for establishment of Small and Medium Scale Enterprise Microfinance Bank to assist artisans, micro and small businesses and even sundry non-formal sectors thrive and reach development potential in the state.
Setting the process in motion, the governor was first to inaugurate a high-powered committee peopled by some higher-ups in key government posts in the state with Dr. Eme Okoro, the former secretary the state government, as implementation committee chairman whereas Barr Gabe Igbokwe, the commissioner for SME acted as the state coordinator alongside other committee members. Thus constituted, the committee applied for operational licence from the Central Bank of Nigeria (whose amount totaled N100, 000, 000. 00 – one hundred million naira), but since the state government could not come up early enough with the needed funds, the operation of the bank was staggered. The helpless committee, FENRAD learned, approached Keystone Bank (a money deposit bank other than the CBN) and was able to secure the sum of 200 million naira, interest of which is not public yet (neither to FENRAD nor to its source).
The arrangement hitherto was to have in each local government headquarters an office or branch of the microfinance bank. But sadly after three years, Abians did not see any such offices across the seventeen (17) local government councils barring one office at Number 17B Ngwa Road Aba which the CBN did not acknowledge issuing any licence to operate but was said to have been commissioned by the governor on Monday, December 16, 2019. FENRAD laments that upon assumption of office as commissioner of SME by Mr. Onyema Nwachukwu, only 40 million naira was seen in the coffers of the bank! The question, FENRAD raises, is: What happened to the over one hundred and fifty million differential?
Sadly, Mr. Udochukwu Ogbonna, former head of Abia State Board of Internal Revenue, FENRAD gathered, had gone to pay back the sum of 200 million naira without appropriation. This was in a bid to cover up the leaky mess, as alleged. FENRAD learns, after having made contacts with some legislators, that the House Committee on Anti-corruption will be having a hearing on the said matter – slated for Thursday,January 21, 2021 (Yesterday) but was later held Today Friday 22nd January 2021 at the House of Assembly Anti Corruption committee conference Room. FENRAD urges the lawmakers to make public such hearing in the interest of the public and see that no stone is left unturned.
FENRAD laments that given hardship occasioned by Coronavirus, EndSars, curfew, lockdown and tariff increase, stories like this could be heard. The group also calls on the executive governor of the state to make sure that any Judas within his twelve is exposed so that public trust is not lost on his administration, especially as he goes about massive road reconstruction.
FENRAD asks: Where are the seventeen offices of this MSE Microfinance Bank located or situated? Who and who accessed their funds among Abians, if any? If none (in dealing with the second and latter question), then who are the committee members of the Bank and can they, to save their image and faces, explain to Abians in whose name the whole thing regarding the loan was accessed, what happened and how the money is becoming a long story now?
FENRAD will be willing to hear the very last of this matter, including the answers to questions raised here, as the indigent public should not be made to suffer and pay what they never consumed.
Signed. Comrade Nelson Nnanna Nwafor Executive Director FENRAD Nigeria
Barr. Olusegun Bamgbose
Head legal Team