…says report misleading
By Mumini AbdulKareem and Matthew Denis
Has the former Kwara State Internal Revenue Service (KWIRS) chairman, Prof Murtala Awodun really committed any fraud as indicated by the report of the state House of Assembly?
These and many other inquiries have trailed the report of the joint Ad-Hoc House committees of Local Government and Chieftaincy Affairs and Ethics Privileges and Judiciary presented last week during plenary.
The lawmakers in their resolution which was read by the Speaker, Hon Yakubu Danladi last Wednesday called on Governor Abdulrahman Abdulrazaq to direct the prosecution of Prof Awodun and the 16 suspended council chairmen in the state over alleged illegal diversion of 10 per cent of the Internally Generated Revenue (IGR) of their respective councils.
The report was sequel to a petition against the council bosses over alleged “Misappropriation, Wastage, Misuse, Embezzlement, Diversion of Statutory Allocation other forms of Revenue and Paralization of Governance at the Councils”.
However, during the House investigation, it was gathered that Awodun appeared before the investigative committees more than once and explained to the lawmakers some of the areas of concerns that were raised including the contentious approval for 10 per cent of the council revenue to be directly paid to the private accounts of the chairmen.
Although, while the investigation lasted, some of the chairmen were sighted at the assembly complex allegedly trying to get a soft landing over the issue, Awodun was never a party or part of such arrangement, it was further learnt.
At one of the meetings with the investigative committees, a source who was privy to what transpired said there was an attempt to use Awodun to indict the suspended chairmen over the issue of the 10 per cent remittance which was rejected.
Several calls to get Awodun’s reaction were not answered just as response to a text message sent to his mobile phone was still being awaited before this paper went to bed, last night.
But a top source at KWIRS who is very conversant with the development exonerated Awodun of any wrong dealings even as he described the House report as misleading.
According to the source, “There are things mixed up obviously in that report which is apparently misleading. The local governments are autonomous and at the creation of KWIRS, we were engaged by the LGAs to collect all revenue on their behalf.
“This was done from 2016 to 2017, improving the collections of the LGAs revenue by over 300 per cent. When the suspended chairmen came in December 2017, they reviewed that agreement and from February 2018, they started collecting their revenues themselves with the exception of four out of 27 items, namely citizenship, signage, radio license and tenement rates.
“Whatever is collected on behalf of the LGAs are paid to them after consideration and approval monthly by the State Joint Revenue Committee which is made up of the chairman of the state IRS and the 16 Chairmen of the LGAs.
“As Chief Executives of their various LGAs, they only instruct KWIRS as their agent and the collections are disbursed as directed by them. As Chairman of KWIRS, Awodun has no power to determine which account the LGA revenue collected is paid to as the council chairmen remain the accounting officers on how their revenues are disbursed.
“What Awodun was responsible for is the revenue of the state and also only to the extent of collection. No single kobo of revenue collected on behalf of the 16 LGAs was unaccounted for to the LGAs or diverted under Awodun’s administration as Chairman of KWIRS as being painted,” the very reliable source who did not want to be named because of sensitive nature of the matter, divulged.
Speaking further, he said, “It is so unfortunate that it is happening like this. They (House committees) are mischievous and they want to indict the former local government chairmen through KWIRS.”
When contacted on the phone last night, the Kwara State Chairman of All Local Government Organisation of Nigeria (ALGON) who is also the council chairman of Oyun, Joshua Omokanye, directed one of our reporters to speak with the suspended chairman of Ifelodun local government, Fatai Garuba Labaka who is the Head of Political Dialogue Committee for the embattled 12 council chairmen.
Labaka however told National Pilot that he was still studying the report and yet to get the full report.
But one of the council chairmen who further spoke on the issue said, “The issue of the 10 per cent started right from the inception of KWIRS and was even in the MoU that established the service.
“The 10 per cent is not fraudulent but just like an incentive. We are not the only regime that has benefited. This is the fourth. Anybody who helps the service to generate fund is given the parentage, including market women and traditional rulers,” he added.
KWIRS under Prof Awodun was widely acclaimed as the best parastatal in the state through which substantial funds for infrastructural development was realised.
He massively improved the IGR of the state from a paltry N600m a month to an agency that generated over N23bn in 12 months with a target of N38bn.
According to the Chairman of Federal Inland Revenue Service (FIRS), Babatunde Fowler, Awodun has set a model for other states in the country to follow in the revenue system adding that KWIRS under him was the first revenue agency in Nigeria to be certified with ISO 9001 for quality management system and ISO 22301 for business continuity management system.
The Chairman of Ad-Hoc Committee, Hon AbdulGafar Ayinla said they observed that the council chairmen were culpable of the offences as alleged by the petitioner and that there was the need for further investigation which could be better done by experts in economic crimes.
Reading the Resolutions of the House, the Speaker, Hon Danladi said the legislature also urged Governor Abdulrazaq to invite the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) to conduct further investigations on Hon. Ayeni Dallas(Ekiti), Engr Abdulmumeen Lah (Ilorin East), Hajia Omodara Romoke Aminat(Ilorin West), and Hon. Muyiwa Oladipo (Irepodun) for diversion of public money for their private use through award of fictitious contracts and embezzlement of the Councils’ funds.
Recall that the four chairmen were not part of the 12 that approached the Chief of Staff, Dr Aminullahi Logun seeking for a political solution over the issue.