Abakaliki – Ebonyi Government says it loses N50 million annually to fraudsters at the Umuoharu Quarry Enterprise Zone in Ezza North Local Government Area of the State.
Dr Ifeanyi Ike, the Commissioner for Commerce and Industry, told the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) in Abakaliki on Sunday that the loss was due to the unwholesome activities of unscrupulous individuals at the site.
The commissioner spoke shortly after a visit to the quarry to inspect the N30 million weigh bridge that had been abandoned.
It was gathered that the weigh bridge, constructed in 2009, has not been put to use since its completion.
“I have to embark on the visit to ensure that the good intention of the State Government in putting the weigh bridge in place is actualised.”
The weigh bridge is to determine the number of trucks and tons of crushed stones that leave the quarry site.
Ike said that records available showed that the idea for the weigh bridge was conceived by Prof. Joseph Chukwu who was then the Commissioner for Commerce and Industry.
“After him came Mr Ben Okah, before myself and since then, the bridge has yet to be put to use.
“And if you approximate it for a year, the state is losing about N50 million. The problem is that most of this money is being syphoned by some unscrupulous individuals.
“You can see what happened today. Somebody short changed government even in my presence. You can then imagine what happens here when the ministry’s staff are not around to checkmate the activities of these revenue collectors.’’
Ike said that the ministry recently apprehended a revenue collector at Amofia quarry site for using forged receipt.
“The forged receipt has the inscription of Ebonyi State Government on it and was used to collect revenue for a private establishment.
“On interrogation, the culprit revealed that the fake receipt was given to him by a retired permanent secretary in the ministry who owns the company. ”
Ike promised that the ministry would soon prosecute the arrested revenue collector and his cohorts.
“The state government would no longer tolerate a situation where top government functionaries use fake receipts to defraud the state. ’’
Mr Tony Nkama, representing Oba Sylva, the firm that constructed the weigh bridge, told newsmen that the non functionality of the weigh bridge was due to sabotage.
According to him, some persons are sabotaging the efforts of the state government in making use of the bridge.
“What happened here today was a big surprise to us because this weigh-bridge was test run.
“It was abandoned because the previous people heading the ministry never wanted to use it for reasons best known to them.”
“Another surprising thing that happened here today is the vandalisation of PHCN’s installations that power the weigh bridge.” (NAN)