The fraud rocking the Bayelsa State Houe of Assembly is yet to be resolved as the police have confirmed that the Speaker of the Assembly and some other lawmakers collected money for a conference in South Africa without actually attending the conference.
The Police Special Fraud Unit say an interim investigation has shown that the speaker, Kombowei Benson, and about half of the 24 members received money to attend the 43rd Commonwealth Parliamentary Association, Africa Regional Conference, in South Africa from June 29 to July 8. They did not attend the conference.
The police investigations were necessitated by a petition from a group, Transparency and Good Governance Coalition, Abuja.
The group alleged that the lawmakers requested for the approval of N78 million from the state governor to attend the conference. They further alleged that Mr. Benson as well as the other House members did not attend the conference, channeling the budgeted funds to their personal pockets.
In a statement by the fraud unit’s spokesperson, Ngozi Isintume, the police said its ongoing investigation has revealed that the lawmakers, excluding four members, departed Nigeria for South Africa “allegedly” for the conference on July 6 and arrived in Johannesburg on July 7, the day the conference ‘ended.’
Police also discovered that the Speaker and his colleagues “made no attempt” to go to the venue of the conference, rather they relied on the information given to them by the Clerk and the Protocol Officer that the conference had ended.
But the House of Assembly members blamed their departure and arrival for the conference on the late issuance of visa by the South African Embassy.
Further investigations by the police revealed that only one member of the House, Omonibeke Emelayefa, attended the conference and paid the conference fees of $3,500USD out of the N2.3m given to him; having arrived two days earlier.
Two others, Ajibola and Angaye Fini Terah, decided that they were already late for the conference and aborted the journey and made refunds.
Investigations on the matter are “still ongoing,” the police said.