Posted by Dennis Erezi | 15 February 2019 | 1,432 times
With less than four months to the end of his tenure as the governor of Lagos State, Akinwunmi Ambode is being accused by some civil servants of deliberately withholding the deductions from their salaries to the accounts of necessary cooperative societies.
Over thirty cooperative societies operating within Lagos state ministries, agencies and parastatals were affected by the unwitting siege on the funds.
“As I am talking to you, the account of the cooperatives have not been credited for two months – December and January,” an assistant director who was aware of the issue told The Guardian.
“Even November remittances came late.”
An investigation by The Guardian revealed that the cooperative funds held by the State government run into billions of naira.
A reliable source, who is a cooperative executive, said the cooperative society with the least amount of money has about ₦3 million from deductions of its members’ salaries, while others have more.
Deductions are usually from salaries of staff who want to set aside certain per cent from their salaries for safekeeping. In a lot of cases, civil servants rely on the cooperatives for low-interest loans.
Some of the cooperatives help civil servants acquire household items and landed properties with payment spread over several months. There are few cooperatives that operate on a no-interest basis.
A member of the executive committee of one of the cooperative societies told The Guardian that the funds being withheld by the government are impacting negatively on the members.
“The truth is that we are cash-strapped,” the source said.
“Our members have been turned down in the last few months because we have no money to give them. And some of them are actually needed for important things.”
The Guardian learnt that deductions from November 2018 were only remitted to the cooperative accounts in February 2018.
Lagos State information commissioner Kehinde Bamigbetan confirmed the report in a chat with our correspondent.
When asked of the validity of the claim that Ambode had been withholding cooperative funds, Bamigbetan said, “My investigation indicates that we remitted November.”
Bamigbetan, however, could not confirm up-to-date payment of funds to the cooperative accounts.
“I am trying to get information on December and January.”
The commissioner argued that the delay in budget approval could be responsible for the delay in remittance. He asked our correspondent to delay the publication of this report till the end of the month when, according to him, he would have more information.
But a cooperative expert Adebola Olukoya said state government budgetary allocations have nothing to do with remittance of funds to cooperative accounts despite deduction from civil servants’ salaries.
He said, “Civil servants salaries were not delayed while the budgetary allocation was delayed due to the governor’s misunderstandings with the Lagos State House of Assembly. Salaries were paid and deductions were made from workers monthly pay. To say it is due to budgetary delay is false.”
Also, Lagos State commerce, industry and cooperatives commissioner Olayinka Oladunjoye, who did not deny the report, refused to speak on the allegations.
The chief press secretary to Ambode, Habeeb Aruna, also declined to speak on the matter.
Another source told The Guardian that the withholding of cooperative funds had never happened since the establishment of cooperative societies within Lagos State Government’s ministries, departments and agencies.
The smooth operations of the cooperative societies were, however, halted by the present administration since the incumbent governor lost the ticket to return to office for a second term.
Whilst Ambode had been accused of working with opposition parties against the election of the ruling All Progressives Congress’ (APC) governorship candidate, Babajide Sanwo-Olu, another source said the cooperative funds were being used to sponsor opposition parties.
Civil servants told our correspondents who visited the state secretariat about difficulties in accessing further loans from the cooperatives.
One of the civil servants, who talked to The Guardian on condition of anonymity, said she had been trying to get a loan since October 2018 but was told funds were unavailable.
She said her cooperative society complained of unremitted funds to their accounts after deductions from other members.
•Sourced from The Guardian report
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