‘How Rivers council chairmen shared N3 billion CBN agric loan’
At the commission’s inaugural sitting in Port Harcourt, the Chairman, Justice George Omereji, assured Amaechi and others that the commission is not on a witch-hunt mission as its activities would be strictly based on the memoranda submitted by parties.
Counsel to the commission, Dr. Zaccheus Adangor, while interrogating the permanent secretaries of the Ministry of Agriculture and Commerce and Industry, based on the memos they submitted, explained that the N4 billion CBN loan meant to help develop agriculture in the state was shared among 380 mother cooperatives which had the then serving council chairmen as their presidents.
Adangor explained that though 38 of the cooperatives lack official documentation with both the Ministry of Commerce and Industry, loans which were converted to grants, were disbursed without supervision.
He told the commission that following memoranda of understanding submitted by the former Commissioner of Agriculture, Emma Chinda, who was absent at the sitting, the then Governor Amaechi had on 25th January, 2015, approved disbursement of N3 billion CBN loan to farmers as grants. According to him, irrespective of CBN guidelines which specified that the loan was meant for development of agriculture in Rivers State, the funds were disbursed to the then council chairmen .
Adangor stated that the memo submitted to the commission by the permanent secretaries revealed that Asari Toru Cooperative Society which has former Asari Toru Council chairman, Flag Ojukaye Amachree, as its president was given N54, 850,000 as grant. He also mentioned that the incumbent Chairman of Ogba/Egbema/Ndoni Council, Augustine Ahiamadu, on behalf of Ogba/Egbema/Ndoni Cooperatives received N64,300.000.00. The Port Harcourt Cooperative Society which had the former Port Harcourt City Local Government Chairman, Nnamdi Uche, as its president, received N134 ,625,000.00, and Omuda Integrated Fishing Cooperatives, whose president was identified as the then chairman of Ogu/Bolo Local Government, Mina Tende, received N32,175,000.00.
According to him, a former Khana Local Government chairman, Derick Mene, on behalf of Meni Cooperative Society received N70,373,000.00, while Ahoada Cooperative Society, the president of which was documented as the former chairman of Ahoada East Local Government Area, Mr. Cassidy Ikegbidi, got N39,325,000.00, among others.
The Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Agriculture, Mrs. Tari Okoye, told the commission that she did not visit any of the beneficiary to ascertain if the funds were deployed for the purpose and intent of the scheme because the commissioner had authorized a committee presided over by a director in the ministry, Mr. Grant Amadi, to oversee the disbursement. She also said the remaining N1 billion is meant for fish farms in Ubima, Andoni and Opobo.
Amadi who also appeared before the panel, admitted he didn’t visit the farms because the ministry did not have operational vehicles for inspection.
The Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Commerce and Industry, Mrs. Cordilia Peterside, explained that she discovered that 38 out of the 380 cooperatives did not have any form of documentation with her ministry.
She also told the commission that she was surprised that the loan was disbursed to serving politicians at that time.
The commission has threatened to evoke its powers and serve all necessary processes on the former Commissioner of Agriculture, Emma Chinda, if he fails to appear before the commission today.