|Taraba State Governor, His Excellency Arc. Darius Ishaku|
A wind of controversy is currently blowing over ministries, parastatals and other government establishments in Taraba State over alleged massive looting of the state treasury. At the centre is the Acting Governor of the state, Alhaji Sani Danladi Abubakar, who is accused of allegedly diverting over N10 billion state funds into his personal pocket.
Recently, the state Commissioner of Finance Barrister Emmanuel Gowon, disclosed to journalists in Jalingo that the State was indebted to the tune of N20 billion. The commissioner, while lamenting drop in Federal allocation to the State which now fluctuates between N3.5 billion and N3 billion. He further disclosed that the State now bears the burden of N1.8 billion. salary bill coupled with the recently sourced additional N30 billion medium term loan.
According to the commissioner, the N30 billion debts is constructed in such a way that the payment will run for seven years with N390 million deductions monthly. The commissioner fears that the incoming administration of Darius Dickson Ishaku may run into trouble over the loan repayment.
Aside from these fears, government activities may have been on slow lane in Taraba State since the Supreme Court in Abuja reinstated Alhaji Sani Danladi Abubakar as Deputy Governor of the state in November last year.
Abubakar who was impeached by the State Assembly in October 2012 for alleged gross misconduct challenged his removal from office to the Supreme Court, which gave judgement in his favour and ordered his reinstatement in November last year.
It was alleged that the Ag Governor, shortly on assumption of office in November ordered the Special Adviser on Millennium Development Goals MDGs in the state, Alhaji Salejoh Mohammed to quickly put together N150 million as his own share out of the money meant for MDGs projects in Taraba State for the last quarter of 2014.
The MDGs officials had already allocated contracts to contractors in the State and effected payments before Abubakar’s assumption of office. It was gathered that the Ag Governor allegedly threatened to sack Salejoh if the money was not provided. A very senior officer with the MDGs in Jalingo told nationalTRAIL that Salejoh had to comply to save his job.
Aside from this, the Ag Governor allegedly ordered for the withdrawal of N1.2 billion from the account of Local Government pensions Board between February and March this year.
The alleged diversion of the N1.2 billion was said to be responsible to the non-payment of pensions to local government pensioners who for the past four months have remained without payment of their pensions.
The allegations of diversion of government funds against the Ag Governor were contained in several petitions written by groups and prominent individuals from the State and addressed to the Chairman, Economic and Financial Crimes Commissions (EFCC)
In one of the petitions written by “Save Taraba Group” and signed by the Chairman Mr. Jeremiah Ubandoma, the group accused the Ag Governor of running the affairs of the state like his personal estate. The group further accused him of allegedly diverting the sum of N1.3 billion from the account of Taraba Micro Finance bank.
According to the group, the money which was meant for Small Scale loan to famers and businessmen in the State was allegedly diverted by the Ag Governor thereby denying the poor masses of the state of this loan.
Also contained in the petition was allegation of diversion of N100 million being payment from rent of Taraba property in Abuja. It was alleged that the rent of the property was put at N40 million per year and for three years which amounted to N120 million. The petition alleged that the Ag Governor collected N100 million out of the money from the account of Taraba Investment Company in May 2015.
The group further alleged that the Ag Governor fraudulently ordered for the withdrawal of over N2 billion from the state Sure-P account between November and February this year.
According to the petition, the Ag Governor shortly on assumption of office intimidated the former Commissioner of Youths and Sports, Alhaji Abdulhadi Lau who doubled as State Coordinator for the Sure-P and allegedly diverted the amount from the account.
In another separate petition by “Concerned Taraba Elders Forum” also addressed to the Chairman, Economic and Financial Crime Commission, EFCC, the forum equally accused Alhaji Abubakar of allegedly conniving with Alhaji Bello Yero, Permanent Secretary, Bureau for Local Government and Chieftaincy Affairs to divert N2.3 billion from the Local Government SURE-P account.
The Local Government Sure-P account which was meant for disbursement of SURE-P funds for the sixteen Local Government Areas. LGAs for the implementation of Sure-P projects in the LGAs was being managed by the Bureau for Local Government and Chieftaincy Affairs. The SURE-P programme in the sixteen LGAs in the State thus failed for lack of funds as the funds allocated to the LGAs developed wings and vanished
A very Senior officer at the Bureau confirmed that the former Special Adviser on Bureau for Local Government and Chieftaincy Affairs, Alhaji Bashir Marafa left over N4 billion in the local government SURE-P account with Zenith Bank Plc. Jalingo branch before he resigned to join politics in November last year.
The most disturbing of all the allegations was the refund of N378 million deposited in the bank of Industry, Bauchi by the former Ag Governor, Alhaji Garba Umar’s Administration.
According to sources, the money was the State’s counterpart funding for disbursement of loan to the people of the State through the Ministry of Poverty Alleviation. It was alleged that the Ag Governor in January this year ordered the refund of the money to the State and allegedly diverted the N378 million.
As if these allegations were not enough the Ag Governor allegedly t forced the Vice-Chancellor of the State University, Professor Sani Yahaya to surrender the sum of N200 million parting gift from Abubakar, even as the university has remained closed for four months due to lack of payment of allowances to lecturers.
Again, Abubakar allegedly collected the sum of N200 million as royalty from the committee handling the payment of land compensation for Dangote Sugar Company in Lau local government area.
In addition, he also allegedly ordered for the withdrawal of the sum of N250 million from the State fertilizer account with the State Ministry of Agriculture.
Meanwhile, the Ag Governor, Alhaji Abubakar vehemently denied all the allegations leveled against him The Ag Governor who spoke through the Senior Special Assistant to the Governor on Media, Mr. Sylvanus Giwa described the allegations as baseless and unfounded.
Giwa added that the allegations were the handwork of Abubakar’s detractors.
Also reacting, the Permanent Secretary, Bureau for Local Government and Chieftaincy Affairs, Alhaji Yero denied that his office was used as a conduit pipe to drill the government’s coffer.
However, despite the denial by Abubakar and Yero of last minute looting of the State treasury, some prominent Tarabans have called for proper investigations of all the allegations, adding that there is no smoke without fire.