By NBF News
Listen to article

Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) has launched investigations into allegations of fraud levelled against the management of the National Economic Reconstruction Fund (NERFUND). The EFCC whose operatives had invited key officials of the NERFUND for questioning, was said to have been inundated with series of petitions by some concerned workers and tenants in the housing estate belonging to NERFUND but being managed by a private estate firm.

EFCC Spokesman, Femi Babafemi, confirmed that the commission was investigating the organization and that the preliminary report of the investigation would soon be out.

In one of the petitions, it was alleged that the NERFUND management had mismanaged the reconstruction scheme by deliberately awarding funds to cronies and phony businesses.

The complainants also submitted that the management had been operating without a board for over 10 years contrary to the extant rules, saying the operations of NERFUND without a board was only to serve the interest of a clique.

Besides, some of the tenants in NERFUND estate alleged that rents were being diverted into personal pockets and urged the commission to beam its searchlight on what had become the proceeds from rent being collected from the tenants over the years.

Sources revealed that the existence of the estate which NERFUND acquired from the defunct All State Trust Bank was not known to some of the members of the management until disagreement arose between the tenants and the private firm estate managers.

Aggrieved tenants told Daily Sun that there were plans to sell off the estate at a very ridiculous low price with some property developers coming for inspection, preparatory to eventual disposal.

Managing Director of NERFUND, Baba Gimba, dismissed the allegations of fraud against his management, pointing out that NERFUND had been in limbo for almost ten years and that it was the present management that had been working assiduously towards resuscitating the agency.

He said the management was not into the business of estate management and that it was just by circumstance that it was in possession of an estate which had been given out to people and that informed the plan to sell it.

Gimba explained further that the management had the mandate of the supervising Ministry of Finance to evaluate the housing estate and that it was the Ministry of Works that assessed the buildings and advised his management on the cost, if it is to be disposed.

The interventionist organization, according to him, ran into trouble, some years ago when it could not recover substantial funds given out to help small businesses as the organization's core mandate.

Explaining that there was nothing like fraud, Gimba said NERFUND had disbursed N3.5 billion as loans to 266 out of the 570 that were approved representing about 45 per cent of the approved projects.

NERFUND's journey into comatose, he further explained, began when the then administration of Chief Olusegun Obasanjo conceived the idea of merging the Fund with Bank of Industry (BoI) to streamline their operations since the two organizations seem to have the same focus.

Also when contacted, the estate managing firm, Goddy Ike and Company denied that there was any fraud in the transactions involving the management of the estate.

Said he: 'No fraud took place in NERFUND. Individuals residing in NERFUND house are refusing to pay their rents, we took them to court and their response was to write petitions to EFCC and everybody making unsubstantiated claims of fraud. EFCC has not found any fraud committed by anybody.'