The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission is investigating how the two tranches of Paris Club refund paid to the Cross River State Government was utilised.
The investigation, it was gathered, followed complaints signed by 100 persons alleging that most of the pensioners in the state had yet to be paid their pensions and gratuities.
Officials of the anti-graft commission on Monday and Tuesday interrogated pensioners at the office of the state Accountant-General, where fresh screening of pensioners was to take place.
Our correspondent gathered that the operatives of the anti-graft commission were discreetly drafted to Cross River State to verify some of the facts contained in the issues raised by the pensioners.
The presence of the operatives of the EFCC is believed to be one of the processes in the fresh probe by the anti-corruption agency into how the Cross River State Government and three other states spent their Paris Club loan refunds.
Cross River State received over N11bn in the first tranche and over N6bn in the second tranche of the Paris Club refunds from the Federal Government.
The Federal Government had directed that the money be used to pay outstanding workers’ salaries, gratuities and pensions for retirees.
One of the EFFC’s operatives, who craved anonymity, confirmed on Wednesday that they were on a fact-finding mission following complaints from some pensioners over the non-payment of their gratuities and pensions.
He said, “Yes we are here on investigation. Our mandate here is to meet with the pensioners who are complaining. The instruction is not to talk to any government official. It is only pensioners whose names are listed in the petition before us that we are talking to.
“The investigation is both ways. We must be sure that we are dealing with genuine pensioners who are crying that they have not been paid.”
When asked how the anti-graft agency got to know that the state government was conducting another round of screening of pensioners after it had announced that no pensioner was being owed, the operative said, “You should know that it is our duty to know. You are journalists. Go and investigate.”
A worker at the state’s treasury office located off Mary Slessor Avenue, said in confidence that the screening was arranged by the state government to verify the claims as to whether some of the pensioners were still being owed arrears of gratuity and pension.
The worker, who asked not to be mentioned because she was not authorised to speak, confirmed that some plain-clothes security operatives were sighted on the premises on Monday and Tuesday while the exercise was ongoing.
Reacting to the EFCC visit and the labour crisis, the state Chairman of the Trade Union Congress, Mr. Clarkson Otu, said, “Both the bailout funds they got and the two tranches of the Paris Club refund had not been deployed for the purposes they were meant.
“A larger number has yet to be paid and what they have committed to that alone is not up to N1bn. So, if you got N7.8bn, N11.3bn, N6.5bn and you use just N1bn, can you say you have applied that money for what it was meant? They have not applied it for what it was meant for.”
Attempts to speak with the state Commissioner for Finance, Mr. Asuquo Ekpenyong, proved abortive as calls to his phone rang out while he did not also respond to text messages.