Fraud: How Bayelsa Lawmakers rubbished Brass LG Chairman

Posted on 26th Jul 2012 under ACROSS THE NATION.

Wednesday, the 18th of July, 2012 is one day the Chairman of Brass Local Government Area of Bayelsa State, Hon. Nathaniel Ngo-Sylva will not forget in a hurry.


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Author: By John Odhe

Wednesday, the 18th of July, 2012 is one day the Chairman of Brass Local Government Area of Bayelsa State, Hon. Nathaniel Ngo-Sylva will not forget in a hurry.

For over five hours, the Brass LG boss stood in the hallow chambers before members of the Bayelsa State House of Assembly as he was being grilled on how he had administered the council since April, 2010.

According to the Speaker of the Bayelsa State House of Assembly, Rt. Hon Benson Konbowei Friday, the House had taken a decision to invite all the eight local government chairmen in the state for questioning following claims and counter claims contained in several impeachment exercises across the councils.

He also revealed that petitions from different local government against the local government chairmen over alleged misappropriation of council funds equally necessitated the investigation into the activities of the executive chairmen of the various councils.

He added that the exercise was not meant to witch-hunt anybody but to ensure accountability and trust amongst public office holders.

It was the member representing Southern Ijaw Constituency I in the State Assembly, Hon. Kuroakegha Dorgu who threw the first punch at the Brass chairman when he asked Ngo-Sylva to explain why he presented minutes of only five months out of nine months’ executive meetings.

Hon. Dorgu also accused the chairman that the non availability of sheets of signatories of minutes indicated that the document he presented was recently typed.

Asked on how much he had saved in line with the ‘Compulsory Saving Act’ passed by the State Assembly which compels the state and local government councils to make monthly savings, the chairman said he had saved nothing, claiming that he had opened an account to that effect but funds from the federation were inadequate.

Sylva who blamed his inability to make savings on high staff strength of the council was further indicted when he claimed that the workforce was over 1,177 workers while nominal roll was 1,029.

The  nominal roll workers attached to him are 31 messengers, 32 securities, 134 cleaners, 165 staff comprising of 52 account officers, 78 junior account staff; 32 orderly enforcement officers, 462 staff of Works, Transport, Survey department and 205 Health department staff, claiming that after verification, the council is still over staffed.

The drama continued when the chairman accepted during cross examination that when he assumed office in April, 2010, the amount he received was N74 million while the document he presented before the House says it was N57 million.

Another drama that played out in the House was when the Director of Works in the Brass LGA, Engr. Abite claimed that he was born in 1964 while he gained employment in 1978 into the civil service meaning that he was employed at the age of 14, a situation that warranted the lawmaker to accuse him of age falsification to fraudulently serve beyond his retirement age.

A member representing Yenagoa Constituency III also accused the chairman of duplicating council projects following the project awarded on the construction of  chairman’s apartment and BQ on the 11th of June, 2010 while another column states that completion of the project was on the 7th of July, 2010 all involving the same project.

The Speaker asked, “your last allocation was N105 million. After salaries, pensions and other expenditures, you are left with just N600,000, do you understand why councils are in existence? What are the statutory functions of the Local government?”.

Answered Ngo-Sylva, “Yes…emm it is to see that development is taken to all towns and villages of the LGA”.

The chairman agreed that with the way he handles the council’s funds the purpose of development can never be achieved.

When asked whether he had ever taken loans since he assumed office, the chairman paused for a while and reluctantly accepted collecting N20 million with no proof on the loan column neither was there any proof of legislative approval.

At last, the chairman concluded that “it was a mistake”.

Another area where the legislators scolded the Brass LG boss was when it was revealed that he had dropped all political appointees since October last year without appointing new ones till June this year.

“He deliberately refused to appoint new persons into the various political offices for nine (9) months while their supposed salaries and allowances are eating deep into his pocket” said one of the legislators.

On the month of May, he agreed to have paid only N1.3 million to the legislative council while he paid the sum of N600,000 to the secretaries, even as he managed to account for about N51 million as against the N69.7 he received that month, directing his account officer to give account of the rest.

Through the document he presented before the House, it was also revealed that the chairman had been using fictitious names to sign council’s financial documents on behalf of the council.

Also funny of the Brass LG boss, was when he claimed that he does not know one Amina James whose name reflected on the document he presented before the House as one of the supervisors in the council.

 When accosted by curious journalists in front of the State Assembly complex, the remorse-laden Brass LG chairman said, “you can see I am very weak and exhausted, I can’t say anything now”.

He staggered into his black Prado jeep and zoomed off.

Meanwhile, the Chairman, House Committee on Information, Hon Obiene N. Iniobiyo (representing Nembe III) told journalists that the exercise was designed to give room for Bayelsans to access their leaders.

He added that a comprehensive report of the exercise would be submitted to the State Governor, who alone has the constitutional right to deal with any erring Local Government Area chairman.

In an interview, the Kolokuma/Opokuma Local government chairman, Chief Diongoli Ebikitin who was quizzed alongside his Brass LGA counterpart, said he resumed work on the 17th February 2012, stating that calling on local government council chairmen to appear before the Bayelsa State House of Assembly members is the constitutional responsibility of the House which is not out of place.

Hon. Ebikitin stated that to appear before the House makes it obvious that as a chairman he has to explain projects he has done and ongoing ones including received allocations and how they have spent the money in the local government council.

He acknowledged that those are proper things they must do to be accountable to the people at the grassroots level. “So, I think they are on course”, he articulated.

 

 

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