Shonga Farm used to syphon public fund, says– Kwara

Kwara Statet has said that Shonga farm was used by past administrations to syphon public fund through fraudulent means.
This was disclosed at a joint media conference in Ilorin on Thursday.
The media briefing was jointly addressed by Attorney General and Commissioner of Justice Salman Jawondo (SAN); Commissioner for Communication Hon. Bode Towoju and Special Adviser to the Governor of Political Matters Lateef Alakawa
Others were Special Adviser to the Governor of Political Communication Bashir Adigun; and Group Managing Director of Harmony Holdings Abdullahi AbdulMajeed.
The briefing was to explain the recent takeover of two Kwara properties by Assets Management Corporation of Nigeria (AMCON) owing to about N1.7 billion debts of the Farm.
The government said more than cumulative sum of N5 billion public funds and loans secured with the government as guarantor have been sunk into the agricultural project with no traces of any dividend to the people of the state.
The government said out of the 13 autonomous farms set up with public funds, nine had been sold out with no kobo paid to the public coffers, even when the government was supposed to hold a paltry 10 per cent equity in each of the farms.
The government explained that the reason AMCON took over the Kwara properties in Abuja was to recover the bad loans that the Farm owed a consortium of banks that invested in it dating back to 2007 because the Shonga Farm Holdings could not pay back on the agreed timeline.
It said AMCON had to hold the state responsible because it was listed among the shareholders of Shonga Farms Holdings Ltd.
The government added that its share was allocated to it only after public noise in the early 2000s and was not commensurate with its huge investments in the project.
Justice Commissioner Salman Jawondo said the crimes perpetrated through fronts and companies took years to unravel and that government will take action once it gathers every document necessary to do so, including files and transactions tucked away by previous officials.
“For instance, the sale of nine farms in which the government ought to have 10 per cent equity shares was done secretly without any document left for the government to trace how the transaction was done.
“No board resolution existed to show that shareholders consented to the divestment process in line with the law.
“When such mind boggling frauds are committed using companies and fronts, it may take many years to unravel the web of conspiracy.
“It is not enough to prosecute for the sake of mere prosecution. But rest assured that we will prosecute everyone involved when we get all the evidences,” Jawondo said.
“By section 61 of AMCON Act, a debtor or a debtor’s company is defined to include directors or shareholders.
“That is where Kwara State properties came in, as a shareholder in Shonga Farm Holdings.
“What happened was that three out of the five banks, who later invested in the Shonga Farm sold their debts to AMCON.
“So, AMCON inherited these debts and started pursuing Shonga Farm Holdings, which included Kwara government to come and pay.
“At a point, they negotiated and they were allowed to pay a little less than a billion naira within a time frame.
“They were left with N283 million. They could not pay within the time limit. Don’t forget I said that this loan went to small, small farms, not even Shonga Holdings.
“In fact, this Shonga Holdings was just a body established without anything doing other than managing these small farms.
“Then, they now exited, after fraudulently activating Clause 17 which means that Shonga Farm Holdings has nothing in these small farms again.
“The 60 per cent even given to Kwara is already gone. You can see the scam.
“So, as far as AMCON is concerned, Kwara is still a shareholder in Shonga Farm Holdings, even though it is doing nothing.
“It was on this basis that AMCON approached the Federal High Court and sought an attachment of Kwara properties.
“This basically means we are responsible for the woes of Shonga Farm even when no dime or dividends have come to the people of Kwara State despite the huge investments there,” Jawando said.
According to him; “Kwara State government is the most vulnerable in these circumstances. So if you people are claiming they had not used the Kwara state property to secure the loan, yes, directly; but indirectly.
“They have siphoned Kwara State government money. They have practically negotiated Kwara state into debt,” he added.

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