Accusations and counter accusations resurfaced in Yenagoa, capital of Bayelsa State, as government receives the report of a committee that reviewed the finances of the state under Timipre Sylva, the former governor
It sounded as if the parties to the last governorship election in Bayelsa State are still campaigning for the attention of voters. The same contenders to the throne there were still spewing fire last week. But the elections have come and gone, and the parties in the row are the ones in court. Rather than be a contention for power, the parties involved are up in arms over integrity. And at the centre of the fresh conflict is the report of a committee, headed by Timi Alaibe, former managing director of the Niger Delta Development Commission, which indicted Timipre Sylva, the former governor. The committee, which probed Sylva’s tenure from 2007 to 2012, delivered a damning indictment against him. Alaibe, during the presentation of the report to Governor Seriake Dickson in Yenagoa, the state capital, accused Sylva of mismanaging the N660.45 billion his government received from the Federation Account from 2007 to 2011. In addition, Sylva was also accused of accumulating about N207 billion liabilities in the form of debts, as well as squandering the N50 billion bond he received in December 2009 from the capital market, as it was not utilised for the capital projects it was meant for.
The committee, which was set up by Dickson on assumption of office to determine the true financial state of Bayelsa State, said questionable transactions such as cash payments that were not backed by any authorisation were discovered during the period. Alaibe noted that there was disregard for proper financial procedure in the disbursement of public funds, and that a number of questionable payments were made in the name of security.
The report reads in part: “Details of cash payment revealed a rather baffling position. In 2010, N3.3 billion was collected as security-related expenses, while N1.6 billion was collected as Government House emergency expenses. In 2011, security-related expenses were N10.3 billion in a state where there was no war and an emergency Government House expenses was N7.42 billion. Total cash expenses for January and February 2012 suggest that security gulped N3.87 billion, while Government House emergency expenses amounted to N155 million.”
These payments were in spite of the regular monthly security votes made out of recurrent expenditure amounting to N3.19 billion in 2010, N7 billion in 2011 and N890 million for January and February 2012. “Clearly, these payments are abnormal payments. They are frivolous and in fact fraudulent. Ninety-nine per cent of these cash payments do not have any originating approval and other supporting documents and should be recovered,” the report suggested.
In addition, the committee said the N50 billion raised from the Nigerian Stock Exchange in December 2009 was used to service existing loans rather than fund developmental projects.
In his reaction, Sylva, whose tenure was terminated by the Supreme Court on January 27, has described the idea of setting up the committee as another means of witch-hunting him. The former governor said the probe committee was another obsession with his ghost. According to a statement attributed to Doifie Ola, Sylva’s media aide, the outcome of the probe was premeditated. He said the report never indicted him of any wrongdoing. The statement by Ola reads in part: “Our attention has been drawn to a committee report administered by Mr. Ndutimi Alaibe in which phoney allegations of grand financial crimes were made against the government of Chief Timipre Sylva. Sylva dismisses these allegations as unfounded, and a failed attempt to divert attention from the calamitous political parodies committed in Bayelsa State by these accusers.”
The governor does not think so. Rather, he said he was confounded by the revelations. He, however, said the intention was not to witch-hunt Sylva. Dickson explained that he decided to set up the committee to avail him an insight into the true financial status of the state since there was no proper handover to him when he became governor. He therefore pledged that his administration would ensure the report did not gather dust.