Group Demands Code Of Conduct Bureau’s Probe Of Federal Lawmaker, Onofiok, Others Over Alleged N327million Fraud

A civil society and anti-corruption group, known as Malpractice and Anti-corruption Interception Project (MACiP), has tasked the Code of Conduct Bureau to immediately probe a former Speaker of the Akwa-Ibom State House of Assembly and member representing Etinan, Nsit Ibom and Nsit Ubium federal constituency, Onofiok Luke, and the Speaker of the state Assembly, Aniekan Bassey, over alleged embezzlement of N327million.
Expressing displeasure over the way and manner the issue was being handled, MACiP in a statement signed by its chairman, Iteveh Ekpokpobe, obtained by SaharaReporters, disclosed that the CBB should step up the investigation of the petition before it.

Also fingered in the alleged embezzlement are some senior officials of the state House of Assembly and the state government in the petition before the anti-graft agency. 
MACiP had earlier in its petition addressed to the CCB chairman, noted as follows, “The audited financial statements of Akwa Ibom State in 2016 and 2018 revealed questionable expenditures under the Akwa Ibom State House of Assembly. An analysis of the reports for the period revealed the project under the State House of Assembly has been used as conduit pipe to siphon funds by corrupt officials of the state. Completion and furnishing of Assembly mini press was awarded at the sum of N112million and subsequently retired through the same subhead in 2016 and 2018. Years later, there is no known project on ground that shows evidence and value for the millions of naira reported to have been spent.
“According to the 2016 audited report of Akwa-Ibom State, the Assembly mini press project had 100 percent performance as the N100 million budgeted was entirely expended. Two years after, N12million out of N22million budgeted was retired for the purchase of equipment for the mini press. This reported purchase in 2018 amounted to 54.5 percent project performance. However, five years after the initial disbursement of funds for the project and nearly three years since N12million was supposedly spent on equipment, investigations reveal that there is no project executed or purchased at the state assembly.
“Documents obtained show that three offices have questions to answer. The project was captured in the state’s appropriation act under the state house of Assembly’s budget with the Clerk as the Chief Accounting Officer. The Accountant General of the state disburses funds under the supervision of the finance ministry headed by the Commissioner. The Accountant General is responsible for safe keeping books of account, and ensures internal control procedures are maintained in order to safeguard the assets, detect and prevent fraud and other irregularities.
“The 2015 budget shows that N100 million was also budgeted for the same item (Assembly Mini Press) with the breakdown showing that N30 million was earmarked for the purchase and installation of guillotine machine, running machine, book sewing machine and stitch expert (Heidelberg). Another N30m was budgeted for the purchase and installation of a 40 KVA generator, N15 million each for training, and purchase of consumables and N10 million for the construction of printing office. Nonetheless, the audited financial statement of 2015 revealed that, only N2 million was eventually spent on “consumables.”
“In 2016, the State House of Assembly budgeted N100 million for the acquisition and installation of HP high tech multi server audio transmitter/speakers system to link its chambers with members’ offices. These transmitters are digital wireless equipment which could enable state legislators to easily communicate between their offices and the chambers where plenary is held. On the same year, N85 million was also set aside for the Computerization/ Networking of Assembly Complex/ Provision of ICT Broad Band for the Complex.
“Broadband in ICT stems from the word broad bandwidth. It applies to network which carries multiple channels of data (signal) ranging from moving images, sound or text. Interestingly, the Accountant General’s Report with audited financial statements for 2016 shows that the acquisition and installation of HP High Tech Multi Server Audio Transmitters/Speakers System to link chambers with offices received 100 percent disbursement of funds. The report also revealed that an item tagged, Computerization/ Networking of Assembly Complex/ Provision of ICT Broad Band for the Complex” had 40 percent performance with N34 million expended out of the N85 million budgeted.
“The project was categorised under an umbrella sub-head tagged, Computerization/ Networking of Assembly Complex/ Provision of internet services/Development of AKHA Information Park (Website). In spite of the recorded expenditures, five years after, investigations reveal that such items do not exist. Another questionable expenditure in the House of Assembly is the construction of speakers’ lodge. Alongside other projects such as the construction of Deputy Speaker’s lodge and permanent resident for principal officers, the sum total of N755 million was budgeted in 2019. For the Speaker’s Lodge alone, a whopping N183 million was budgeted.
“Checks into the state 2014 Appropriation Law shows that the project was conceived as a storey building with boys’ quarters, and has appeared in subsequent budget since then. The project had a drawdown in 2019 as only N30 million was spent representing 16.4 percent of the total budgeted sum. Today, there is no indication of commencement of the project two years after disbursement of fund. The entire landscape remains undeveloped. Interestingly, the project has even assumed a different dimension according to the 2021 budget. Checks showed that the project has now been re-christened as “Construction of Assembly Village” with a budget of N120 million.
“In the breakdown, N50 million was budgeted for design while N70 million went to construction. These line items, especially “design,” raise questions as to what the N30 million in 2019 was spent on when the project was not yet designed. Therefore, as a Civil Society Organisation with zero tolerance with violation of the law and in pursuant of our mandate, we are under obligation to urge the Code of Conduct Bureau to investigate these allegations forthwith and charge those culpable before the tribunal or we shall be forced to take legal and other necessary actions to press home our demands.”
When contacted, the former Speaker of Akwa-Ibom State House of Assembly and member representing Etinan, Nsit Ibom and Nsit Ubium federal constituency, Onofiok Luke and the incumbent speaker of the state Assembly, Aniekan Bassey, did not respond to calls and messages sent to them.

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