By Balkis Tijani.
Indications emerged yesterday (Tuesday) that the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) may have invited the Clerk to the Kwara State House of Assembly and the Secretary to the State Government (SSG) to explain their roles in the alleged N400m severance package paid lawmakers and some members of the State Executive Council.
It was gathered that the Ilorin Zonal Office of the anti-graft agency commenced investigations on the issue and has already invited the Secretary to the State Government, Alhaji Isiaka Sola Gold as well as the Clerk of the State House of Assembly, Kperogi Halimat Jummai, for questioning.
In a release on its website on Tuesday on the alleged payment, which it says did not follow due process, the EFCC wrote:
“It was gathered that all the 25 lawmakers and some members of the State Executive Council, two weeks ago, received about N400 million severance gratuity before the expiration of their tenure despite the fact that the State is owing workers about three months salaries.
“The petitioner said even though the Lawmakers and members of the State Executive Council are entitled to severance payment, it was the next administration that was supposed to pay the money.
“It was further alleged that the State Government, with selfish intent, swiftly paid the money before the expiration of their terms.
“More worrisome was the issue of furniture allowance running into hundreds of millions of naira according to the petitioner, which they wanted paid along with severance gratuity.”
Making reference to a letter written by the Kwara Assembly Speaker, Dr. Ali Ahmad, the EFCC further alleged,
“In a letter written by the Speaker, Kwara State House of Assembly, Dr. Ali Ahmed to the State Governor, it was confirmed that the Lawmakers were entitled to severance gratuity at the end of their tenure due to terminate on June 7, 2019.
“The letter further stated that: ‘In accordance with the provisions of the Revenue Mobilization, Allocation and Fiscal Commission, Honourable Members are entitled to 200 percent of their annual basic salaries as their severance gratuity allowance at the end of their tenure of Office.’”
In a statement she volunteered to the EFCC, the Assembly Clerk, Ms. Kperogi, confirmed to the Commission that the Lawmakers have received their severance gratuity and that the payment was approved by Governor Abdulfatah Ahmed.
“In a meeting of the Principal Officers of the Kwara House of Assembly wherein (Ms. Kperogi) I am scheduled to be the Secretary, held on 8th of May 2019, issue of severance gratuity to the honourable members was raised, the principal officers were informed that the state governor has approved the payment of the severance gratuity.
“At the meeting, I (Ms. Kperogi) informed the House that His Excellency (Governor Fatai) had approved the payment, adding that members were expected to be paid after the expiration of their tenure of Office. The House debated it and they overruled me”, Ms. Kperogi reportedly told the EFCC investigators.
The anti-graft Commission added in its statement that:“On the other hand, Gold (SSG) wrote and sought for the approval of the severance gratuity and furniture allowances amounting to about N300 million of some members of the State Executive Council.”
Citing a letter allegedly written by the SSG, the EFCC noted, “In a letter to the State Governor, dated May 8, 2019 Gold said: ‘Your Excellency, by virtue of the provisions of Kwara State remuneration of political and Public Office holders law, certain category of political and public office holders are entitled to severance and furniture allowances of their basic salaries respectively upon successful completion of tenure.’”
The EFCC alleged that the SSG claimed, while he was being interrogated, that only Assembly members have received any form of payment, and that members of the State Executive Council are yet to receive their gratuity.
Neither the House Clerk nor the SSG could be reached for comments as at the time of filing this report.