Stakeholders seek investigation of Abia Fadama project as Umahi sacks Ebonyi co-ordinator

Stakeholders in agricultural sector in Abia State have called on the state governor, Okezie Ikpeazu to carry out a detailed audit in the state Fadama III project, alleging corruption. 

This is even as his Ebonyi State counterpart, Dave Umahi on Wednesday relieved the state co-ordinator of Fadama III project, Cletus Nwakpu of his appointment over allegation of corruption. 

A rice farmer in Abia, Uwakwe Adiele in a chat with our correspondent on Wednesday alleged that the level of impunity and flouting of the laid down rules in the Fadama III project in the state is unbelievable. 

Another farmer, Wilson Onyemaechi while showing anger over the laxity of Abia government to act on the corruption going on at the state's Fadama project threatened to reveal more evidence of infractions in coming days. 

Others who pleaded anonymity said this is an opportunity for governor Ikpeazu to show that he is intolerant to corruption, insisting on the sack of Fadama managers. 

They alleged that what is going on in Abia is nothing compared to the reason for which Ebonyi governor sacked the project co-ordinator. 

"The government should put in motion measures to sanitize the Project in the state. This has helped in other South East states of Anambra and Enugu" he said. 

Mr Nwakpu’s suspension was announced during a virtual state executive council meeting presided over by the governor who recently tested positive for COVID-19.

Mr Umahi said the sanction followed a report presented by the state Fiscal Responsibility Commission, which indicted Mr Nwakpu of misappropriation of funds and other acts against his oath of office.

He directed the Secretary to the State government, Kenneth Ugbala, to take over the office in an acting capacity.

He also ordered the state Head of Service, Chamberlain Nwele, to discipline Mr Nwakpu as a civil servant through civil service rules.

The governor further gave the Fiscal Responsibility Commission seven days to recover all the monies from Mr Nwakpu.

He charged the Commission to petition the EFCC to take over the matter; and also prosecute Mr Nwakpu if he fails to remit the embezzled funds within the seven days.

The report which was read at the meeting read: “Dr Cletus Nwakpu, directed the opening of an account with the name of Ebonyi State FADAMA Production Cluster with Polaris Bank PLC, formerly called Skye Bank PLC, and the project account has signatories and which money contributed by the farmers as captured in 2007 FADAMA Projects were deposited contrary to the financial regulation guiding the implementation of FADAMA project.

“That Dr Cletus Nwakpu did not release to the farmers the complete Agricultural inputs which they paid for and has failed to refund the payment so made.

“That Dr Cletus Nwakpu directed some parts of FADAMA office to collect about ninety million naira (#90,000,000) being for the beneficiary contribution levy made by the farmers in cash contrary to the requirement that every beneficiary contributes into individual farmers’ production group account.

“The total sum of twelve million six hundred and ten thousand only (#12,610,000.00), two million six hundred and ten thousand naira only(#2,610,000.00) paid by farmers for advisory services of the 2017 FADAMA Project was not compiled for the designated purpose.

“That the total sum of thirteen million six hundred and fifty thousand naira only(N13,650,000.00) approved by Dr Cletus Nwakpu for the payment to the two resourced persons for capacity building for the farmers was not actually spent for the purpose and there was no capacity building as claimed.

“That the regulation and guideline for the procurement of Agricultural inputs, selection of service provider, particularly for advisory service and capacity building for 2017-2019 FADAMA Project/Program were not compiled by Dr Cletus Nwakpu.

“That the sum of ninety-one thousand naira (N91,000) was paid for one unit of rice machine but was neither supplied nor the amount refunded to the farmers.

“That because of the failure of the said coordinating office to comply with the approval regulation and procedures, one hundred and eighty-two million naira (N182,000,000) being 50% beneficial contribution this year and another 90% International Development Agency(ICA) counterpart fund for the advisory service fee for 2017 was not paid to Ebonyi State Government by International Development Agency Fund.

“That Dr Cletus Nwakpu initiated the arrest of Mr Anthony Nwankwo, the Project Accountant on the said day that he (Anthony Nwankwo), was invited by the Fiscal Responsibility Commission to testify to the matter. This arrest followed an earlier arrest of Mr. Cyprian Iziogo, the Project Procurement Officer.”

Briefing journalists after the virtual meeting, the SSG, Mr. Ugbala, said the state will commence distribution of Covid-19 Palliatives on Saturday.

He said that the distribution will be at the political ward level under the supervision of stakeholders in the area.

Mr Ugbala said the palliatives were donated by the federal government, NGOs, and good-spirited individuals.