N17BN VANISHES IN NASARAWA

By NBF News
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The princely sum of $113 million (about N17.176 billion) has developed wings and flown out of the Nasarawa State Government treasury. But the governor, Alhaji Umaru Tanko Al-Makura is raising hell, screaming enough to pull the roofs down.

The money, according to Al-Makura, the only governor elected on the platform of the Congress for Progressive Change (CPC), was the refund given to the Nasarawa State Government from loans earlier repaid to the Paris Club of creditors, but which was refunded when Nigeria concluded a debt forgiveness deal in the latter part of President Olusegun Obasanjo's administration.

At an interview with Daily Sun in Lafia, the Nasarawa State capital at the weekend, Governor Al-Makura told the story thus:

'When we were still part of Plateau State, there was the Paris Club issue. A loan was taken, but this area, which is now Nasarawa State never benefited from the loan. But being part of Plateau State when the loan was taken, our resources were used to pay back. After the debt negotiation, we exited the loan repayment. This state then benefited by virtue of the contributions it had made over the years in financing that loan. Certain refunds were made, and we benefited $113 million in 2008. The money was accessed, cashed and domiciled in Nasarawa, and everybody was happy.

'But less than six months later, the money developed wings, and evaporated. It sounds like fiction. But up to this point I'm talking to you, that $113 million is nowhere to be found. I'm talking to you with every sense of responsibility. It was never budgeted, never appropriated and you cannot tie any project to that amount. Even in the handing over note I got from my predecessor, there was no mention of it.

The only mention of it was that the money has been got, but there is the problem that Plateau State complained that the $113 million given to us was much more than the ratio of the contribution Nasarawa State made while the loan repayment lasted, that we were supposed to have about 86 million dollars. Plateau State complained to the Federal Ministry of Finance and Debt Management Office (DMO). And after that, Nasarawa State was subjected to deductions, which started only when I got sworn into office in May. Since May, June, July, August, and now September, Nasarawa State has been paying N240 million as repayment of the excesses we've been paid. We didn't enjoy the loan, money was paid back to us as refund, and nobody can say where the money is.

'I challenge anybody, on my honour, to prove that Nasarawa State has benefited from that money. And now, even with our meagre federal allocation of N2.1 billion monthly, the amount is subjected to N240 million, and that will last for 36 months. That is the predicament in which we find ourselves.'

What then has the governor done, or intends to do, in order to recover the money?

'We have taken the matter up with the security agencies,' Al-Makura says.

'The matter is being looked into, and very soon, the culprits will be brought to book.'