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By Solomon Tor Wombo
I did not in the first instance intend to comment on the recommendations of this probe panel, principally because there is the right place to address issues like this which is the Court of Law. However I have come under severe pressure from Benue people to make a statement to clarify issues in the report as it concerns the local government. Accordingly, I have no choice than to briefly speak on that report while details will be produced at a later time at the appropriate quarters to prove my case.
I consider that report laughable. It is completely unprofessional, and highly political.
The report is not based on any known Accounting principle or established financial management authorities in the civil service. It does not cite any aspect of the accounting procedures that were violated or breached. The report did not adopt any accounting procedures or financial regulations to arrive at figures they recommended should be paid back.
Their recommendations clearly show that they are not conversant with accounting procedures and the workings of government as contained in the books and extant circulars.
The presentation of the report was rather emotional than professional. The commission allowed their emotions of hatred, envy and wickedness to becloud their sense of judgment. The choice of language was also very personal, abusive, unofficial and vindictive. I know that reports of such panels are professionally presented devoid of what the members feel and think of the people they are probing. The facts should be presented undiluted. The section of the law and financial memorandum and or procedures violated should be clearly shown and referenced, punishment should be recommended based on known provision of the law and not a preconceived intention to destroy peoples reputations.
The report is full of falsified figures forged to mislead the users and also the people of Benue state. The commission did not base their recommendations on financial documents submitted to support various transactions, or testimonies given by those invited. Rather, their recommendations are based on premeditated conclusions they were working towards. Consequently they had to set aside genuine pieces of evidence provided and made recommendations to suit their preconceived thoughts, arrangements and falsehood.
I am also concerned about the ambiguous recommendations of the Commission. I know Audit and Probe should be very specific. If they knew their job, and they were meticulous, they could have established the specific violation each person committed and the specific amount each person is to refund. Regrettably, they were in haste to deliver on their predetermined conclusions, so they hurriedly lumped names together and assigned some amount of money to them not based on any known accounting process or law, and recommended that such funds be paid back. If I may ask, in what proportion. This does not conform with Accounting best practices.
I wish to state without fear of contradiction that transactions in the Bureau of local government were done in line with the provisions of the Financial Memorandum and due process was followed in all aspect. It should be noted also that our accounts were audited by the Auditor General and end of year Financial Accounts published up to 2014. We shall depend on this and other documents to prove our case.
Again, the political aspect of this report presents the entire work as unserious and total waste of time. For example, how can you investigate Local governments in Benue state between 2007 and 2015 and not mention Mr. Sam Ode? He served for 3 years as the Advicer on LG&CA, Mr. Augustine Avaan served as chairman of ALGON for 4 years out of the 8years under review, and he is not mentioned in the recommendations, while the Permanent Secretary Mr. Emmanuel Atini that worked with them is recommended to refund money. Were the two people above so excellent on the job that the commission did not see any thing wrong with their work? Or is it because they have decamped to APC? Does decamping to APC confer the saint status on people now? Similarly, the commission is said to have investigated local government pension and did not mention Akange Audu that served for more than 3 years in that office. There are so many of such examples also at the state tier. This report is a political tool to witch hunt those perceived to be enemies of the government, and a propaganda weapon against the government of Rt. Hon Gabriel Suswam and his team. There is no sincerity in any aspect of the report.
In conclusion, I see this report as a fraud. The report should not be taken serious. However you will not blame the members of this probe panel as well meaning Benue people did not expect any serious thing to come out of what they were doing. It is a disaster that was expected from the day the names of the members of this probe panel were announced. There were no professional accountants and Auditors, no seasoned civil servants, no reputable Administrators. Rather we heard names of politicians who have failed in all aspects of their lives. People that have been sacked from their places of work due to stealing and fraud, people that have been indicted by properly constituted probe panels, people that have in the past forged and changed court judgment to deceive judges and above all, people who are not independent minded. There were also allegations of requesting for bribe to influence recommendations. What else will you expect from this category of people?
This clearly is a futile exercise and a failed attempt to kill, to steal and to destroy. However in God we trust to prove our innocence at the appropriate time.
-Wombo is former Special Adviser on Local Government and Chieftaincy Affairs

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