By Samuel Tombra, Yenagoa
The Independent Corrupt Practices Commission (ICPC) has alleged that funds released by the last administration to relevant ministries to complete the East-West Road were diverted into private pockets.
Chairman of ICPC, Mr. Ekpo Nta, said the commission was shocked to discover that persons saddled with the responsibility of completing the road linking all the states in the Niger Delta region shortchanged their people.
Nta spoke in Yenagoa, Bayelsa State when he led a delegation of ICPC to inaugurate the Bayelsa State Anti-Corruption Summit, Transparency and Accountability and to pay a courtesy call to the state Governor, Mr. Seriake Dickson.
The ICPC boss said: “I was in Delta to do exactly what I am doing here and we finished at about 1.05pm and I decided to drive down to Bayelsa on a Coaster bus and we arrived Bayelsa 4.45pm.
“Now why am I telling you this story? The quality of the largely East-West Road that we traversed brought a lot of nostalgia and anger to me. First, I used to work in OMPADEC in the 90s so I know the state of roads in the Niger Delta. Sometimes you can take off from Rivers and spend two days on that road to get to Yenagoa.
“Now somebody gave a contract to do that road and I drove on that road and what crossed my mind was that I am fully aware of the money that had been allocated on that road and I asked myself if the quality met exactly the expectations.
“That is why when we had to investigate persons in relevant ministries responsible for that road and saw what had been taken into private pockets, I didn’t waste time seizing their personal properties.
“Part of this whole exercise is to make corruption very unprofitable. I published those whose properties were seized in few newspapers and had charged all of them to court. But even if they are jailed for six years each, will that bring back the persons who had died on that road through accident?
“These are things that regulate me. So, when people come and say lets go and beg the chairman of ICPC if there is any way plea bargain can be done, there are certain issues I am not even ready to discuss. Don’t come to my office to talk about plea bargains when you still pension money”.
Nta said the summit was organised to sensitise people on ways to prevent corruption before its occurrence adding that the Federal Government was able to deploy technologies to discourage corruption.
He said through the use of Bank Verification Numbers (BVN) the government was able to tackle entrenched payroll fraud at the centre.
Nta scored the Bayelsa State Government high in the fight against corruption and commended Dickson for measures he initiated, especially the Transparency Law, to tackle corruption.
He said through the efforts of the governor, Bayelsa was one of the least states in the country with corruption cases.
He said: “I am very happy with what I have seen and heard. Bayelsa State is the first to apply to have the ICPC in their state and this underscores the importance the government attaches to the issue of fighting corruption”.
In his remarks, Dickson appreciated the approach adopted by the ICPC to fight corruption describing it as quiet and effective.
He asked the commission to collaborate with his government to deepen the anti-corruption drive of his government.
He said different committees were established to rid the state’s public service of various forms of corruption such as ghost names, payroll fraud and vowed that his government would continue to be accountable to the people.
But Dickson insisted that the war against corruption should not be left to the Federal Government alone and urged the commission to have a presence in Bayelsa.