A chairman of a local council in Akwa Ibom State, Nigeria’s South-south region, has admitted collecting and appropriating council funds without letting the cash pass through the council’s bank account.
The chairman, Aniekpon Ekpo, heads Mkpat Enin local council. He was elected in December 2020 under the Peoples Democratic Party which is the ruling party in the state.
He is under investigation by the Akwa Ibom House of Assembly for alleged theft, financial misappropriation and abuse of office, following a petition against him by 10 out of 15 councillors.
The councillors accused Mr Ekpo of misappropriating the council’s internally generated revenue (IGR).
“The position of the law is that all funds of the local government shall be paid into the account of local government but this is not the case in Mkpat Enin Local Government Area as the internally generated revenue cannot be found in the local government’s account,” the councillors stated in their petition to the Speaker, Akwa Ibom House of Assembly.
Mr Ekpo has never given an account of the council’s IGR since he assumed office, the councillors said.
The council generates an average of N2 million monthly, according to the councillors.
Mr Ekpo, while responding to the allegation, said his administration hired a consultant to collect revenue for the council, but that consultant remits the money directly to the council’s cashier, instead of depositing it into the council’s bank account.
Mr Ekpo said this on Friday during the second investigative hearing by the Akwa Ibom Assembly Committee on Local Government and Chieftaincy Affairs.
“He (consultant) paid N3 million to the council,” Mr Ekpo disclosed at the hearing.
“When you say council account, it is not only a bank account. There are funds paid at the council and receipts are given. It is not only when money passes through the bank that it is in the council account.
“When we came in early, we said that rather than just keep money, we had to use the money to kickstart the projects that we had.
“So, it was not paid into the bank account. It was paid, cash to the cashier and there is a receipt for it,” the chairman said.
Mr Ekpo’s claim, however, contravenes section 66 subsection 1 of the Local Government Administration Law of Akwa Ibom State.
“Subject to the provision of this section, all funds of the local government shall be paid into the account of the local government and shall be applied to the administration, development and welfare of the inheritance thereof,” the law says.
Reacting to Mr Ekpo’s defence, Dennis Akpan, a member of the House Committee, said it is mandatory for all the council’s funds to be paid into the council’s bank account before expenditure.
“We are talking about the Local Government Administration Law here, and that is where the councillors are basing their allegations.
“Abuse of office does not mean that you have taken money, but have you followed the laid down procedure especially when such provision has to do with the law which brought you into office?
“Even if you want to use the money, pay in first then you take it out and do whatever you want. But the law requires that you pay it first into the account of the local government. It is mandatory,” Mr Akpan said.
Mr Akpan is the deputy leader of the Assembly.
The investigative hearing was adjourned to October 27.
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