Governor of Niger State, Abubakar Bello has set up a seven-man panel of enquiry to look into how the 12 Local Government Areas in the state utilized the N4.4 billion bailout funds given to them for payment of salary arrears to workers, noting that many of the LG bosses diverted the fund.
The panel which is chaired by a retired permanent secretary in the Niger State civil service, Daniel Tarachi, is mandated to find out why the affected local government councils are yet to pay staff salaries even after receiving the bailout funds.
Governor Bello said it was necessary to set-up the panel in order to check the high level of financial recklessness and impunity at the grassroots level.
He said it was “irresponsible” of some of the local government chief executives to refuse to pay their staff even when the state government has released funds to assist them.
The Governor said: “I find it necessary to set up this panel to know what really happened, what went wrong, how the fund given was disbursed and what it was used for.
“I cannot understand why primary school teachers and local government staff will be owed 3, 4 or 5 months’ salary after the councils have been given money to pay.
“We used the proceeds from the Paris Club recovery to bail out the affected councils but some chairmen diverted and used the money for some flimsy things like, claiming to have used it for security matters, some even borrowed the money.
“This is not acceptable. We are going to get to the root of the matter and any chairman found wanting will face the law,” Bello said.
The Governor noted that some of the affected council chiefs have commenced payment of their workers when they got wind of the State Government’s intention to probe their use of the funds released to them.
He however urged the investigative panel to be thorough in carrying out their assignment.
“I demand for a thorough job. A clear picture of what happened without sparing anyone. Let me know if you have any problem or you are not getting the needed cooperation,” the Governor charged the panel.
Bello noted that some of the Local Government Councils maintain that they have not received their funds but the State’s ministry of local government affairs said it has released the fund, urging the panel to “work hard to unearth the truth”.