The Civil Liberties Organisation (CLO) in Rivers State has called on Governor Chibuike Amaechi to order an investigation into how the Commissioner for Agriculture, Emma Chinda, spent about N100 million counterpart fund on the World Bank project for 2013.
In a statement signed by its Director of Publicity and Research, Livingstone Wechie, and released to journalists in Port Harcourt yesterday, the CLO alleged that the commissioner failed to remit the funds to FADAMA and the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) projects in the state.
It said FADAMA and IFAD projects were expected to have received N50 million each.
According to the Wechie, Chinda “has failed to remit to FADAMA and IFAD the sum of fifty million naira each, even after the Accountant-General of Rivers State had in a written instruction dated March 31, authorised Zenith Bank Plc to pay the Ministry of Agriculture in Rivers State the sum of one hundred million naira only, for onward remittance to IFAD and FADAMA accounts respectively, for the benefit of the Rivers people in the agricultural project.”
He said Amaechi might not have known that the amount was not remitted to the agencies, adding that if nothing was done immediately, the people of the state would suffer.
His words: “We have been monitoring some activities of MDA’s in Rivers State and the ministry of agric in particular. We feel that the commissioner of agriculture, along with his co-travellers in some of the MDA’s, are hell bent on running down Rivers State possibly without the knowledge of the governor, who has made several promises to Rivers people. It follows that if the governor fails to act now, Emma Chinda and his co-conspirators will join in running down Rivers State.”
The group noted that the last release of counterpart fund in Rivers State was in 2009, adding that the goal of the programme which was to improve the living standard and quality of life of at least 400,000 rural households in the Niger Delta with emphasis on women and youths was being stifled by the commissioner.
“We are aware that the federal ministry of agriculture has made futile effort to prevail on the commissioner of agriculture to release the money to FADAMA and IFAD. We wish to further call on the governor and the anti-graft agencies to bring Emma Chinda to account for the billions of naira allocated to the ministry of agriculture under his watch,” the CLO said.
The CLO said it was not also sure of claims by the commissioner that he had expended monies in some projects such as a fish farm in Abonnema, Andoni and a Rice Meal project which it alleged “are neither found or functional or better put, existent anywhere.”
Efforts made to get the reaction of Chinda to the allegations were not successful as calls put to his phone did not go through as the line was switched off.
In his reaction, Chinda said the allegations were politically motivated as Wechie was being used by the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) to discredit him.
In a statement issued by his press secretary, Florence Romeo, yesterday, he said: “The attention of the Rivers State Ministry of Agriculture has again been drawn to the incessant, politically sponsored media attacks by one Mr. Livingstone Wechie, on the person and office Commissioner for Agriculture Hon. Emmanuel Chindah and the ministry.
“First, it is to be noted that Mr. Livingstone Wechie, who claims to be the spokesperson of CLO in Rivers State has been disowned by the national leadership of the body which described him as an impersonator.”
On the allegation of embezzlement of N100 million, the statement said, “The World Bank that funds the FADAMA Project is a well organised body that should know when funds made available by them are not properly utilised.
“The IFAD is also a well organised international body that will not need one local politician like Mr. Wechie to speak on its behalf. The Ministry of Agriculture partners with a lot of bodies including IFAD and World Bank and does so through the budgetary allocations of the ministry.
It is pertinent to note that the Rivers State ministry of agriculture has not received any N100 million naira from IFAD, and neither did it receive any funds from the World Bank for any project.
“Politicians in whatever guise they may appear should learn to verify their facts and prove same in the course of trying to satisfy the political yearning of their pay masters. The office of FADAMA is open for more inquiries.”