By Bekee Anyalewechi
Former Rivers State Governor and minister-designate, Chibuike Rotimi Amaechi, has debunked claims of a missing N53 billion from the state Reserve Fund. The immediate past governor summed the claims credited to Hon. Justice GO Omereji, Chairman of a panel set up by Governor Ezebuwon Nyesom Wike to probe his Administration, as a last ditched effort to blackmail him.
Amaechi who spoke through his media office described the Omereji statement as unfortunate and leaves much to be desired. “The mischief is all the more evident as the funds referred to are funds from the Rivers State Reserve Fund which was duly approved by the Rivers State House of Assembly and whose expenditure were duly captured and accounted for”, Amaechi added.
The Rt. Hon Chibuike Amaechi’s media office said the ongoing mudslinging against Amaechi is rather Wike’s trump card in the hope that it will diminish the former governor’s towering stature as a statesman and honest Nigerian. While explaining that every expenditure made of the Reserve Funds was approved by the extant laws, Amaechi further explained the purposes for which they were used.
The statement read in part: “The attention of the media office of former Governor Chibuike Rotimi Amaechi has been drawn to a statement credited to the chairman of Mr. Nyesom Wike’s invidious panel of inquiry. The statement credited to the panel’s chairman Justice Omereji of a “missing” N53 billion is unfortunate and leaves much to be desired. The mischief is all the more evident as the funds referred to are funds from the Rivers State Reserve Fund which was duly approved by the Rivers State House of Assembly and whose expenditure were duly captured and accounted for.
It continued, “Ordinarily we might not have responded to the mischief of Mr. Wike knowing that having failed with his various desperate tactics to stop the nomination of the Rt. Hon. Chibuike Amaechi as a minister he has embarked on this last ditch effort which is his trump card in the hope that it will diminish the former governors towering stature as a statesman and honest Nigerian. However in keeping with former Governor Amaechi’s ethos of transparent and accountable leadership, we will again repeat the facts of the matter.
“Between 2013 and early 2015 revenue accruing to the Government of Rivers State was cut in half due to dwindling federal allocation to states. From about an average of N20 billion, the state began receiving between N9 and N10 billion. By the middle of the first quarter of 2015 the state revenue dipped to as low as N6 billion. Salaries alone stood at over N9 billion besides other expenses. Government had set aside the reserve funds as a rainy day fund and had need to fall back to it to fund salaries and projects. The details of the expenditure were very clearly captured and this information which was already in the public domain was shared with the incoming Administration and the Omereji panel.
While coaching Wike on the primary duty of government, Amaechi advised him to spare Rivers funds for development than expending them on chasing shadow.
“Government business should be transparent and honest and if indeed Mr. Nyesom Wike understands the basics of governance then he should know that rather than playing to the gallery with his red herring of a panel, he should simply go to court and prove his spurious allegations of corruption if he is sure there is corruption. Spending resources left behind for the betterment of Rivers people by a prudent and thrifty government on frivolities is indeed irresponsible and unbecoming for a person who aspires to public office especially that of the exalted office of governor.
In further explanation of the facts surrounding the management of the State Reserve Funds, the former Administration reiterated that neither the sum of Fifty-Three Billion Naira (N53, 000, 000,000.00) nor any amount for that matter “disappeared” from the Rivers State Reserve Fund between 2014 and May 2015 under Amaechi’s watch.
“The first point to be made here is that the Administration of Governor Chibuike Rotimi Amaechi believed in saving for the rainy day. It is a mark of prudence that the Administration committed to a mandatory saving early in its life. However, unfortunate developments in the management of our national resources and the down turn in the economy accelerated the rainy day.
“The second point, which is more of clarification and information relates to the amounts in question. At the inauguration of the Justice Omereji Commission, the claim was that the sum of Ninety-Six Billion (N96, 000, 000, 000.00) was withdrawn from the Fund by the Administration of Governor Amaechi.
“The third point is that every withdrawal from the Fund complied with the extant controls governing the Fund. Following severe shortfalls in expected revenues, the Administration made three (3) withdrawals in 2014. Each withdrawal was in line with the governing law and the proceeds were applied for the purposes of government.
“The total savings by the State over the life of the Administration was under Thirty-Nine Billion Naira (N38, 530,000,000.00) only. Earnings from the investment during the period were over Sixteen Billion Naira (N16, 000,000,000.00). The Fund had a Net Asset Value of over One Billion, Two Hundred Million Naira (N1, 200, 000, 000.00) only at the end of the Administration in May 2015.
“We would counsel Mr. Wike to focus on the job at hand and try to make something of the few days he has before he leaves Brick House (seat of power), per adventure he might yet make some positive impact on the minds of Rivers people.