The Executive Secretary of the National Agricultural Land Development Authority, an agency under the Presidency, has been accused by staff of squandering the N2 billion grant given to the agency in 2020.
A pioneer staff of NALDA and Zonal Coordinator for North West, Dr Mohammed Ali, in a petition to the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) dated February 15 obtained by THE WHISTLER, accused the Executive Secretary, Prince Paul Ikonne, of not using the N2 billion take-off grant for what it was meant, but instead allegedly spent the money fraudulently.
Dr Ali claimed in the petition entitled: “FINANCIAL IMPROPRIETY, DOUBLE STANDARD AND ABUSE OF ADMINISTRATIVE ETHICS,” that the ES made financial transactions on behalf of the agency verbally and largely avoided paper works so that his deals could not be traced.
Part of the petition reads: “NALDA started in June 2016 with no budget but a grant of 2 billion naira was made to facilitate effective take-off. But as I present this petition to your good office, NALDA has no single office of its own or rented building in any part of the federation knowing for a fact that 2 billion naira is more than enough to open offices, furnish them and buy a vehicle each to fast-track smooth take-off and effective job delivery.
“Unfortunately, this was not attained nor did the Executive Secretary deemed it fit to explain to any of the 27 states Coordinators and five Zonal Coordinators what is up for grabs in the agency. Neither do we have a national work plan that will guide what each offices of NALDA is expected to do within a given time frame.
“Nothing is procured to our knowledge nor is any account rendered of the said 2 billion naira. Neither is any state or zonal coordinator properly briefed when in October/November 2020 the Executive Secretary embarked on what he called pilot program on animal husbandry in which 300 goats each were distributed in Kaduna and Katsina states, while 600 were distributed in Kebbi.
“None of the three states’ coordinators was contacted or knew how the goats were procured. This in itself is fraudulent and a negation of financial instructions in the civil service. The Executive Secretary also claims to have distributed rabbits in Abia and Enugu states, forgetting that there are 36 states and FCT, not just 5 states. Why are the remaining 31 states untouched? Is NALDA’s program selective or done at the whims of the almighty Executive Secretary?”
The petitioner gave several instances of personal interaction with the ES which he said clearly suggested a dubious mindset, and cited an incident when he had to invite the police in Kaduna to detain a man sent by the ES to make official transaction.
A source at the EFCC told this website that the anti-graft agency appeared to be unwilling to investigate the allegation because it affects an agency under the presidency.
THE WHISTLER also contacted the petitioner to find out if he had been invited to substantiate his allegations by the EFCC, but answered in the negative.
But Wilson Uwujaren, spokesman of EFCC, said it was wrong to conclude the agency did not want to investigate the petition, stressing that it would always investigate petitions that are found to have merit.
He said: “If you submit a petition it doesn’t mean investigation will begin immediately. They will look at the petition to see if it has merit. If they find it has merit, it would then be assigned for investigation and the writer of the petition would be contacted.
“But if they have not contacted the petitioner yet, it still does not mean that the petition lacked merit. It is possible it has been assigned but investigation has not commenced. It is also possible that they are doing discreet investigation without contacting the petitioner yet.”
NALDA was established as an agency under the presidency to , among other things, provide strategic public support for land development; promote and support optimum utilization of Nigeria’s rural land resources for accelerated production of food and fibre.