The Justice Elizabeth Kpojime Judicial Commission of Inquiry has ordered the Benue State Ministry of Finance to provide clarification on the N60 million given to the Federal Ministry of Internal Affairs on February 20, 2013 under the caption ‘Handling Charges.
It also directed the Ministry and office of the Attorney-General as well as Head of Service of the state to ensure that all documents contained in the summons issued to them are submitted to the Commission at its next sitting.
Chairman of the Judicial Commission, Justice Kpojime gave the directives at last Friday’s sitting following the verbal application for additional time by the permanent secretary, ministry of finance Mrs Ruth Ijir and the permanent secretary, office of the head of service, Mr Joseph Oko, who appeared before the Commission. Justice Kpojime also ordered the affected witnesses to provide evidence of directives for the disbursement of funds as contained in the documents they had submitted. She said it was necessary that every witness to the Commission tenders all documents listed in the summons demanding the appearance of the witness.
Presenting some of the requested documents, two of the witnesses, the permanent secretary, ministry of finance, Mrs Ruth Ijir and Mr Gabriel Ameh, an assistant director, office of the accountant general of the state who were led in evidence by the lead counsel to the Commission, Mike Agber, made varying submissions on the appropriation of funds in the period under review.
Mrs Ijir tendered documents, which were the statement of Zenith Bank account operated by the state government between the first of June, 2007 and 30th June, 2015. Other documents submitted by the permanent secretary were details of withdrawals from the sale of Benue State government shares in Zenith Bank amounting to N5.3 billion; details of the payment for the contract of biometric registration of workers; details of beneficiaries of the state taxi scheme, as well as the N1 billion Central Bank loan to Benue state on agriculture credit scheme.
Mrs Ijir, however, said details of those who bought bank shares in Zenith Bank could be obtained from the Benue State Investment and Property Company, BIPC. Similarly, Mrs Ijir said details of bonds taken by the state government could be obtained from the office of the attorney-general of the state.
Another issue on which the Commission sought clarification was the expenditure on foreign and local trips by the immediate past Governor. Responding, Mrs Ijir promised to submit during the sitting of the commission, details of the expenditure on foreign trips undertaken by the former Governor as disbursed by the ministry of finance.
Earlier in his witness, the assistant director, office of accountant general, Mr Gabriel Ameh had submitted documents on the dispatch register for the disbursement of funds to ministries, departments and agencies of the state. He also tendered documents on approvals for the N13 billion loan obtained by the state government during the previous administration. Other documents he submitted were on SURE-P funds, the N1 billion CBN agric loan, N500 million emergency funds for flood management in the state as well as approval for the sale of state shares and remittances.
When the lead counsel to the Commission raised the point that the memo sent to it by the accountant general’s office indicated that the indebtedness of the state as at May 2015 stood at N120 billion, Mr Ameh however said he could not confirm the figures until he was given more time to go through the financial records once again.
Members of the Commission demanded further clarification on the disparity in the figures contained in the documents tendered by the ministry of finance and the office of the attorney-general which in according to the records of the finance ministry, showed that total receipts of the state government in 2012 were N4.4 billion while records from the accountant-general’s office indicated that total receipts for the same year stood at N9 billion. Disparity was also observed in year 2013 which showed total receipts as N3 billion according to finance ministry’s records while evidence from the accountant-general’s office put total receipts for the same year at N6.6 billion.
The last witness to appear before the Commission for the day was the Head of Service, Adaikwu Inwata whose presentation was brief giving way for the permanent secretary administration, office of the Head of Service, Mr Joseph Oko who promised to furnish the Commission with details of SURE-P funds in its next sitting. The Judicial Commission of Inquiry adjourned its sitting to the 28th of September this year.