By; Bala B. Bitrus, Minna.
The sledge hammer may soon fall on the heads of some local governments Chief Executives if the panel raised by the state government to probe the disappearance of the N4.4 Billion bailout funds disbursed to 12 local government councils in the state finds them culpable.
To give bite to his earlier word, Governor Abubakar Sani Bello of Niger State Monday inaugurated a 7-man administrative panel of enquiry to ascertain how the leadership of the affected councils utilised the N4.4 billion bailout funds disbursed to them to settle outstanding salaries to their workers.Headed by Mr. Daniel C. Tarachi, a retired Permanent Secretary in the state Civil Service, the panel is to amongst other things ascertain why the affected council areas have not been able to pay outstanding salaries to their workers even though the sum of N4.45 billion bailout funds was shared to them to offset the backlog of unpaid salaries to their workers.Governor Bello said while inaugurating the panel that his administration will not condone willful pilfering of public resources by anybody.He said he had made spirited efforts to ensure that the affected councils settle their outstanding wage bills to their workers but was shocked that employees in the council areas were still being owed.
The Governor said the probe was a last resort to establish what the monies disbursed were used for and investigate why the employees were not paid their entitlements in line with the the exant labour laws.
He pointed out that the step had become necessary as it will go a long way in not only curtailing financial recklessness but as well check impunity amongst public servants particularly at the local councils level which were fast becoming notorious in cases of financial misappropriation.
Governor Bello argued that the most brazen act of impunity was for any pubic officer to refuse to pay the salary of his workers moreso when government had made funds available to assist in defraying such backlog.The Governor who was visibly upset by the glaring sharp practices by councils’ leaders, directed the panel to probe the account books of the affected councils saying his administration was determined to check and bring to a stop such such theft and misappropriation that have caused severe rots in most of the council areas in the state.
“Setting up this panel will enable us to know what really happened in the councils. We want to know what went wrong, how the funds given were disbursed and what they were used for” he said.
He argued that since the bailout funds were released specifically for the settlement of unpaid salaries, “i cannot understand why Primary School teachers and other local government employees were still being owed salaries for 3, 4 or 5 months in some of the councils despite the fact that the councils have been given money to offset such backlog”
Governor Bello disclosed that the state government used receipts from the Paris Club recovery proceeds to bail out the affected council areas but lamented that some council Chairmen diverted what they collected for some flimsy, unappropriated things.
He vowed that no one would be spared for diverting public funds into private or personal use. “This is not acceptable. We will get to the roots of the matter and any council Chairman found wanting, he would face the wrath of the law” he declared.He therefore urged the panel to be thorough, decisive and uncompromising in the discharge of it’s duties in the one month period alloted to it just as he insisted that no stone should be left unturned in the course of carrying out the assignment .
“I demand for a clear picture of what happened without sparing anyone. Let me know if you have any problem or you are not getting the needed cooperation even from the Ministry of Local Government because there are arguments between some councils and the Ministry on whether or not the money has been paid”.
It would recalled that Governor Bello had last November sacked the Chairman and vice Chairman of the Suleja council area over sharp practices, highhandedness and abuse of office.
Last month, the sacked public officers were replaced by two people following the submission of the report by a committee that probed into the allegations against the two.
The twelve affected councils under scrutiny are Agaie, Bida, Bosso, Chanchaga, Gbako, Katcha, Lapai, Lavun, Mokwa, Paikoro, Shiroro and Suleja.