Ebonyi State Government has ordered its Fiscal Responsibility Commission (FRC) to recover over N120 million alleged to have been embezzled by the state’s FADAMA III project coordinator.
State Governor David Umahi gave this directive during a virtual state executive council meeting on Wednesday.
Umahi’s order followed the findings of FRC’s investigation into a petition against the state FADAMA III project coordinator, Dr Cletus Nwakpu.
Secretary to the State Government (SSG), Dr Kenneth Ugbala, who presented the commission’s report, disclosed that Nwakpu was accused of fraud and financial irregularities in a petition against him
Umahi, in his reaction, gave the commission a one-week ultimatum to recover the looted fund.
The governor, who also provided guidelines for the recovery, said the FRC should either table the matter before the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), or prosecute Nwakpu should he fail to return the loot within the stipulated period.
“This should be in accordance with the laws guiding the commission,” he added.
While Umahi directed the state Head of Service (HoS) to immediately suspend Nwakpu as a civil servant, the SSG was to get an interim head for the state FADAMA III project.
The governor noted that the interim head will be tasked with strategizing to rejig the World Bank-supported programme in the state.
On his part, Ugbala noted that the petition against Nwakpu was submitted on February 10.
FRC’s report also indicates that the Nwakpu could not account for over N120 million within his purview.
“The petition was written by Mr Mathew Nweze and Elijah Joseph of the state FADAMA Cooperative Society Limited on February 10.
“Investigations by FRC revealed that Nwakpu directed the opening of an account with the name, Ebonyi FADAMA Production Beneficiaries Clusters, with himself as a signatory.
“Funds which were contributed by farmers for the 2017 FADAMA III project were deposited in the account, and this runs contrary to the financial regulations guiding the project.
“Nwakpu did not release the complete agricultural inputs to the farmers which they paid for, and has failed to refund the money to the farmers,” the report reads in part.
Also, the report indicted Nwakpu for allegedly directing some staff of FADAMA III office to collect N90 million from farmers in cash.
It said this was contrary to the provision that payments should be made into their group accounts.
“The regulations and guidelines for procurement of agricultural input, capacity building, selection of service providers, among others, for the 2017-2019 FADAMA project were not complied with by Nwakpu,” the report also claims.
The World Bank’s Fadama III project is a follow-up to its Fadama II project said to have impacted the lives of rural farmers in states across Nigeria by raising their incomes by 63 per cent.
The term ‘fadama’ is a Hausa name for irrigable land.