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The Edo State Government has said that the Etsako West Local Government Area chairman, Hon. Yakubu Musa, was asked to step aside to allow for a thorough investigation into a N46 million payroll fraud uncovered in the council.
In a statement signed by the recently redeployed Commissioner for Local Government and Community Affairs, Hon. (Barr.) Jimoh Ijegbai, the state government said it took the decision in the interest of people of Etsako West and to ensure that the erstwhile council boss does not encumber efforts to unravel the full ramification of the fraud in the system.
According to him, “The attention of the Ministry of Local Government and Community Affairs, Edo State, has been drawn to the falsehood and unnecessary sentiment being spread on the circumstance surrounding the suspension of the Executive Chairman of Etsako West Local Government, Hon. Yakubu O. Musa.
“At the Joint Account Allocation Committee (JAAC) meeting held on May, 28, 2019, the Governor of Edo State frowned at the very high wage bill of Etsako West Local Government which amounted to Sixty-six Million Six Hundred and Fifty-Two Thousand, Five Hundred and Twenty Seven Naira, Fifty Two Kobo (N66,652,527.52) monthly, whereas Oredo Local Government with far more staff strength was paying (N59,859,964.29) Fifty-Nine Million, Eight Hundred and Fifty-Nine Thousand, Nine Hundred and Sixty Naira, Twenty-Nine kobo) to its staff.
“Consequently, the Governor directed the Ministry of Local Government and Community Affairs to carry out a staff audit in Etsako West Local Government.”
He noted that at the end of the verification exercise, Sixty Three (63) staff of the Council did not show up for the exercise thereby saving N6,035,656.29 (Six Million, Thirty-Five Thousand, Six Hundred and Fifty-Six Naira, Twenty-Nine kobo) for the local government.
“It was later discovered that the Authority of Etsako West Local Government entrusted the council’s payroll to a Grade Level Three (GL-03) Officer who inserted two fictitious names on the payroll through whom the Local Government was defrauded of the sum of Forty-Six Million (46 Million), from July 2018 to May 2019. The case is currently being investigated by security agencies,” he added.
According to him, “If the Council Chairman was diligent enough, he should have been the one to raise the alarm that his council’s wage bill was increasing astronomically even though no new staff was employed.
“Unfortunately, it had to take a staff audit ordered by His Excellency, Governor Godwin Obaseki, to uncover the massive fraud that had been festering in the Local Government Area.
“Following this unfortunate incident, the government in keeping with its avowed commitment to the Rule of Law and in accordance with the Local Government Law of Edo State 2000 as Amended, has decided to suspend the Chairman in order to ensure unbiased investigation into what led to the scandalous rise in Etsako West Local Government wage bill and make recommendations to prevent further violation.”
“It was only proper to ask the chairman to step aside to ensure that his presence does not encumber the process put in place to uncover the depth and full ramification of the fraud in the system.
“It is only fair and natural for the chairman to be suspended to ensure that Justice is not only done but is seen to be manifestly done to the very good people of Etsako West Local Government,” he added.
He said the governor has consequently ordered a general verification and audit in other local governments to ensure such malfeasance is not going on in other councils.