The Delta State Commissioner for Agriculture and Natural Resources, Hon. Omoun Perez has been suspended by the state governor, Rt. Hon. Sheriff Oborevwori.
The suspension which follows an allegation of financial misappropriation up to the tune of N280million, also affected some senior officials of the ministry who were directed to commence on an indefinite leave.
Disclosing this development in a Press Release on Tuesday, January 30, 2024, the Secretary to the State Government, Dr. Kingsley Emu stated that Governor “Oborevwori has constituted a seven man committee to investigate the claims and perceived infractions related to the management of the scheme by the Ministry”.
The statement obtained by SUMMIT NIGERIA reads. “Arising from the outcome of the review of the implementation of the Greenhouse project by the State Ministry of Agriculture and Natural Resources, the Governor of Delta State Rt. Hon Elder Sheriff F.O. Oborevwori has constituted a seven man committee chaired by the Secretary to the State Government (SSG), Dr. Kingsley Emu to investigate the claims and perceived infractions related to the management of the scheme by the Ministry.
“According to a statement signed by the Secretary to the State Government, Dr. Kingsley Emu, that consequent upon the interim report of the committee and in other to have an unimpeded access to information during the period of the investigations, the Governor, Rt. Hon. Elder Sheriff F.O Oborevwori has approved the immediate suspension of Hon. Omoun Perekebena Perez, Hon. Commissioner for Agriculture and Natural Resources, while Messrs Bennett Ezon-Abode Agamah, Permanent Secretary; Engr. Oki Preowei Yintareke, Assistant Director, Agricultural Engineering and Mr. Gabriel Idiatacheko, Chief Accountant are to proceed on compulsory leave until further notice in line with Civil Service extant rules.
“The statement further added that the government’s action is in no way a presumption of guilt but rather a necessary measure to uphold the sanctity of the investigative processes already instituted which is to ensure that the investigation is conducted without any potential for undue influence or bias.”
According to several reports, the agriculture ministry and related departments in the state have been fraught with financial scandals which had gone unattended. However, in a recent report by SAHARA REPORTERS on January 23, 2024, the alleged misappropriation by the Commissioner and ministry staff, attracted the attention of Governor Oborevwori who swung into action resulting to widespread investigation.
SAHARA REPORTERS had reported that, Perez Omoun, Delta State Commissioner for Agriculture and Natural Resources and the Permanent Secretary, Ben Agamah and workers in the ministry have been accused of illegally transferring N280 million meant for agricultural programmes to a private account. This violates the Public Procurement Act
Raising the alarm, sources in the ministry told SaharaReporters that the N280 million was illegally transferred in tranches and to a private account by the commissioner in connivance with the permanent secretary.
It was learnt that the money was meant for an agricultural programme called ‘Accelerated Agricultural Development Scheme (AADS)’.
One of the sources said, “Since this illegal transaction came to our notice, it has been a topic in the ministry where staff discussed it in hushed tones.
“The commissioner and permanent secretary have committed the same offence committed by the suspended Minister of Humanitarian Affairs and Poverty Alleviation, Betta Edu.
“Apart from that, the civil service rules and the financial regulations policy of this country actually frown on this kind of transaction which encourages corruption.
“It is illegal to send public funds to private accounts. The N280 million was illegally transferred into the private account of one Engineer Oki in three tranches.
“This is how the commissioner in connivance with his permanent secretary illegally transferred the money into the private account of Engineer Oki. N100 million was first transferred in the first tranche, the second tranche was N80 million and the third tranche was N100 million making the N280 million.
“There was no committee set up; nothing was set up for the money before this financial crime was carried out. I am using this opportunity to call on the state governor, His Excellency Rt. Hon. Sheriff Oborevwori to set up a panel to investigate the commissioner and the permanent secretary who are currently boasting that nothing will happen.
“I am also calling on the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) to come into the matter as well.”
Another staff member of the ministry privy to the transfer called on the state governor, Sheriff Oborevwori to keenly monitor all the ministries, government agencies and parastatals to curb corruption and fraudulent activities.
The staff member said, “The ministry of the agriculture and natural resources is one of the powerful ministries where huge funds are allocated to carry out agricultural programmes.
“Millions of naira are always allocated to the ministry and if there are no mechanisms to check the usage of such public funds, you will see commissioner, permanent secretary and senior staff looting the funds left and right.
“The illegal transfer of the N280 million to a private account by the commissioner in connivance with the permanent secretary is the talk of the ministry and it must be investigated.
“I’m not surprised and we can’t forget in a hurry what happened in December 2020, when this same commissioner for agriculture, Perez Omoun, who was the then-chairman of Patani Local Government Area was remanded in Ogwashi-Uku Correctional Centre by a magistrate court sitting in Asaba for allegedly attacking the then-state commissioner for energy, Basil Ganagana.
“Omoun was arrested and charged to court by the police on four counts bordering on intent to cause grievous harm, unlawfully wound, maliciously damage and attempting to commit suicide but he pleaded not guilty to the charges.
“Following his plea, the prosecutor, F. O. Itua, urged the court to remand him since the court lacked the jurisdiction to adjudicate on the suit. Subsequently, the presiding magistrate, V. O. Okonta, ordered the remand of Omoun at the Ogwashi-Ukwu Correctional Centre till December 30, 2020 pending the determination of his bail application and the issue of jurisdiction raised by the prosecutor.
“However, some top politicians in the state especially his colleagues under the umbrella of ALGON had to beg Basil Ganagana to forgive him and the matter was withdrawn. He was set free and we hope he leads the ministry well as a commissioner. It’s unfortunate though.”
It was gathered on Tuesday that the commissioner, permanent secretary some others had been holding a series of meetings in the ministry since news about the transfer broke.
When contacted, the permanent secretary of the Ministry of Agriculture and Natural Resources, Ben Agamah, sounded nervous.
After questioning, he said: “Please give me some minutes, I will call you back to speak with the person in charge of that schedule to explain to you better.” However, he did not call back.
When contacted, the state commissioner for agriculture and natural resources, Perez Omoun, declined comment and simply said “Please write me a letter officially, and after my approval, I will give you a date you can come to my office for this interview.”
Workers in the ministry have called for an in-depth investigation into the matter and the immediate sacking of those connected to the transactions to serve as a deterrent to others.