By Dayo Johnson, Akure
The Ondo state government and the state chapter of the Association of Local Governments of Nigeria ALGON have asked for the refund of N 357 million illegally deducted from its monthly allocation for a phoney Comprehensive Healthcare Centre project.
According to them since none of the 18 council areas in the state has benefited from the said Healthcare Centre project, the deduction should be refunded by the Federal government.
Addressing a joint press conference in Akure, the State NULGE President, Comrade Bola Taiwo; the state Chairman of ALGON, Augustine Oloruntogbe; the State Accountant-General, Mr Laolu Akindolire and the State Commissioner for Local Government & Chieftaincy Affairs, Deaconess Lola Fagbemi appealed to the Minister of Finance and the Accountant-General of the federation to refund the money illegally deducted to Ondo state local government account.
They said that N119 million was deducted from the council account in the last three months totalling N 357million.
The NULGE President particularly exonerated the ALGON Chairman; Ondo state Commissioner for Finance, Wale Akinterinwa and the state Accountant-General, Laolu Akindolire of any wrongdoing in the alleged illegal deductions of the money by the Federal Ministry of Finance.
“I want to set the record straight, Ondo state Chairman of ALGON, Ondo state Commissioner for Finance and the State Accountant-General never connived in the illegal deductions, our earlier allegation against them was due to communication gap.
“We (NULGE leadership) have now realised that the illegal deductions in the last three months were done by the office of the Accountant-General of the Federation and the Federal Ministry of Finance.
“We want to state clearly that Ondo state never benefited from the said phony Comprehensive Healthcare Centres for local government areas.
“It should be noted that the funds accruing to us from the Federal Allocation already is not enough, Now, imagine 119 million Naira being deducted on monthly basis from the source by the Federal Ministry of finance for a project we didn’t benefit from 17 years ago.
Also speaking, the state ALGON boss, Oloruntegbe said the Association would work with the Nigerian Governors’ Forum to ensure that the money was refunded to Ondo state local government account.
Oloruntogbe, who said the news of the deduction came to them as a surprise added that the state ALGON was not aware of any contract awarded in the state by the national ALGON in the last 17 years.
“The Ondo state ALGON dissociates itself from the said Healthcare contracts and asked for the immediate refund of the sum of N357million so far deducted from the Ondo state local government account by the Accountant General of the Federation and the Minister of Finance because we never benefited from such project.
He said that if the money is released to the state, it would be used for various developmental and other people-oriented programmes at the local government level.
Oloruntogbe said he had contacted the national office of ALGON and has told them that they were not aware of any contract for which the said money was being deducted.
The state Commissioner for Local Government and Chieftaincy Affairs, Deaconess Lola Fagbemi, said efforts would be made to ensure immediate refund of the deducted fund for the benefit of the people of the state, especially at the grassroots.
Fagbemi also expressed optimism that when contentious issues were resolved, the money would be refunded to the state
The State Accountant General, Olaolu Akindolire who said the state government knew nothing about the money which was being deducted from the source from the 774 local governments In the federation.
Akindolire added that neither himself nor the state Commissioner for Finance was party to the deduction.
He said when the issue was raised at the FAAC meeting in Abuja, it was discovered that the money deducted so far was still being kept in an account with CBN.