Kogi State Governor, Yahaya Bello has accused his predecessor, Captain Idris Wada, of embezzling the N2 billion Youth Enterprise Fund obtained from the Central Bank of Nigeria.
Bello, who made the accusation on Sunday in a statewide broadcast to commemorate Democracy Day, said the immediate past administration used fictitious beneficiaries to siphon the money.
He said: “This money is a loan meant to stimulate commerce among the youth.
“We will recover it back from whoever has stolen it.”
The governor said he was not out to witch-hunt anyone but would not condone corruption by closing his eyes “to obvious cases of outright embezzlement of state funds”.
Bello urged the youths not to despair over the development as he was mapping out alternative strategies of economic empowerment and job creation for them.
To this end, he said his government was assisting the Dangote Group to negotiate the acquisition of 20,000 hectares of land for commercial rice cultivation and processing, while it has also signed memorandum of understanding with tested large scale farming enterprises.
According to Bello, government has also engaged consultants to review all projects awarded by the previous administration and advise it on the way forward.
He said: “We did discover that most of the contractors who rushed back to site when we assumed office had abandoned those projects before. This has led us to wonder what other abandoned projects exist for which the state has made payments and received little or no value.
“We advise other contractors who know they have not given value to money to quietly return to site and complete their obligations. We will not condone corruption where discovered.”
Bello said he was employing creative financial and social engineering to re-distribute the meagre allocations coming from the Federation Account in the interest of the citizens through cost cutting, prioritization and elimination of wastages.
“We have set up an Economic Team and a Fiscal Responsibility Committee to assist the administration in the areas of probity and accountability,” he explained.
While assuring the people that the collection of all revenues due to the state will be vigorously pursued, the governor said he had approved the release of 10 per cent of gross internally generated revenue to local governments councils.
He also said arrangements were nearing completion to adopt the Contributory Pension Scheme and the National Health Insurance Scheme as part of efforts to improve workers welfare.
Bello promised to carry the ongoing workers screening and verifications exercise to a logical conclusion and promised that the N20 billion bailout fund recently received from the CBN will be used strictly for the payment of salary arrears of workers.
Reacting to the allegation of embezzlement, Wada’s media aide, Jacob Edi, dismissed the claim.
Edi, in a statement in Lokoja, said the money in question was given to all states of the federation through the Central Bank of Nigeria with clear guidelines on disbursement.
He said the government had set up a Special Purpose Vehicle Committee as directed by the CBN to disburse the money.
Edi said the then State Executive Council also deliberated on the guidelines before approving the disbursement of the money.
While stressing that every transaction was done in accordance with the CBN guideline, Edi asked those in doubt to reach out to the beneficiaries who are still in the state and verify.