The National President of the Nigeria Association of Women Journalists, NAWOJ, Ifeyinwa Omowole, has described as untrue the allegation of misappropriating the housing fund of the association.
Mrs. Omowole in statement issued on Sunday said that the report which alleged that $227,000 meant for housing units for members of the association had been embezzled was false.
Saturday Punch had reported that Ms. Omowole had withdrawn almost all the money from the dollar account.
However, according to statements of account sighted by our correspondent, a total sum of $227, 000 was withdrawn from the association’s dollar account on March 31, 2016 and a total sum of N70, 256, 000 was deposited in multiples of N10, 000,000 in the Naira account of the association on the same day.
Mrs. Omowole explained that since the initial agreement had failed and the association was making headway with a local contractor that would be paid in Naira, the money had to be converted to Naira at the rate of 309.5 naira to a dollar.
She stressed that her vision for the association was to see women journalists own affordable houses.
“All I want is to leave a legacy, to ensure that journalists have access to affordable decent housing for female /male journalists.
“This project started in 2015, contributions commenced around March/April 2015.
“After the association missed the opportunity of the foreign funds due to incomplete counterpart fund, NAWOJ agreed with the executives of NUJ Lagos Council to find indigenous developers, which we did.
“After some meetings with the indigenous developer, Prime Water Views, who we found out had built over 1000 units of houses, even for cooperative societies, we agreed to change the money to Naira since we were billed in Naira by the developer.
“The mandate letter to exchange the funds to Naira was duly signed by authorised signatories. Funds were disbursed to the developer as appropriate with Lagos NUJ executives and NAWOJ National representatives to the developer, to omo onile (the original owners of the land) while legal and surveyors’ fees were also paid.
“I stand bold to say that there was no misappropriation of funds. The matter was addressed during two stakeholders’ meetings in April 2016.
“The stakeholders were satisfied with the steps we had taken and the documentary evidence we had shown and therefore approved for the project to be continued,” she said.
Mrs. Omowole further explained that based on this, the MoU was signed between NUJ/NAWOJ and Prime Water views while the ground breaking was done in July.
She added that the developer attended a stakeholders meeting which was held last week and also acknowledged that he had been paid while explaining the level of work done.
The President of NAWOJ, however, regretted that the economic situation had made it impossible for subscribers to meet up to their own part for the funding.
She said that out of about N1.2 billion that was supposed to have been paid to the developer, the association had only been able to pay N78 million.
She said that unlike the initial project that was to be co-funded by CRCI Africa, the new project may require that subscribers pay the total cost of their houses.
“Subscribers have not been able to meet up with the contribution, so we decided to look for funders to finance the project with the developer.
“We are talking to funders with the developer, so we can do it on mortgage basis where the developer takes the funds on our behalf and executes and subscribers will gradually pay their mortgages.
“Last week, the developer was at the stakeholders meeting and he made a commitment.
“Pen Jewel Estate is a reality. The economic challenge in the country may have slowed development of the project but it will certainly not affect execution and completion.
“Journalists work hard and deserve the best, that is what NUJ/NAWOJ intend to offer by His grace.”