By Lucy Ogalue
The Abuja Cooperative Federation is seeking the Federal Government’s intervention on alleged fraud by the office of the Chief Registrar of Cooperatives in the FCT through the re-certification of cooperative societies.
President of the association, Mr Emmanuel Atama made the call while briefing newsmen on the present challenges of cooperatives on Monday in Abuja.
According to Atama, Office of the Chief Registrar of Cooperatives is presently re-certifying Cooperatives with the purported approval of the Agriculture and Rural Development Secretariat (ARDS).
He alleged that the Office employed the service of an unknown consultant to recertify and re-validate cooperative societies in the FCT.
He said the cooperatives were directed to pay N10,000 each to the accounts of the FCT ARDS IGR Accounts and Professional Cooperative Consult Cooperative Society Ltd respectively.
The association president said the Office threatened to de-register cooperatives which failed to comply with the payment through intimidating text messages.
Atama further said the Chief Registrar of Cooperatives also refused to register new cooperative societies that failed to pay the re-certification fee.
He described the move as fraudulent and self serving while urging the government to intervene for the benefit of poor Nigerians.
“ We are reiterating our call on the Minister of the FCT to urgently intervene to save the poor masses who through the cooperative model are currently being assisted by the President Muhammadu Buhari’s led administration.
“The people are benefiting through the Ease of Doing Business, capacity building and access to finance which in turn has greatly reduced poverty and uplifted the living standard of the poor people.
“This purported recertification is self-serving and not in the interest of the masses who through the cooperative model are meeting their needs.
“We equally call on the police, Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Commission (ICPC) and the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) to urgently investigate the issue to save the poor masses from the hands of these public officers,” Atama said.
According to Atama, all attempts to meet with the Chief Registrar and the Secretary, Agriculture and Rural Development Secretariat and resolve the matter has been futile.
Meanwhile, some Heads of Cooperatives present at the conference also expressed their displeasure on the matter in an interview with newsmen while urging Federal Government’s intervention.
The Coordinator, All Feathers Fadama Users Cooperative Society Ltd, Kuje, Mr Festus Omoregie expressed dismay at the refusal of the Office to register new cooperatives which failed to pay for re-certification.
“Surprisingly, applications for new registrations that should ordinarily be approved and given certificates are being asked to pay the same re-certification fee, so you begin to wonder what they are re-certifying.
“This clearly states that the intention is not really to help the cooperative movement but to defraud it.
“The fee is N20,000 and surprisingly this money is not being paid into government accounts.
“This shows that this is money that they are collecting they don’t even want the government to be aware of it,” Omeregie said.
Also speaking, Mrs Yemisi Bankole, Chairperson, Business and Professional Women Cooperative, Abuja, said the re-certification was a rip-off on cooperatives.
“It is causing rancour among us that have paid for registration and the certificate is not coming forth; we are beginning to lose our trust and integrity which the people put on us.
“Why should I pay for re-certification when I am just registering a new cooperative?
“The whole exercise is shady. The association President has said it all and we just want a fast and permanent solution.
However, when the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) put a call across to the mobile line of the registrar, Hajiya Hassana Mohammed on Monday, it was received by her aide who declined to give his name.
He told the NAN reporter that the Cooperatives Federation would hold a sensitisation workshop on “Re-certified and Revalidated Cooperatives” on Tuesday in Abuja and asked our reporter to endeavour to attend the programme if she was interested in speaking with his boss.
During the workshop, NAN reporter met Mohammed and presented the allegations before her, but she declined comments, asking the reporter to stay till the end of the workshop to enable her prepare response but to no avail.
The editor also called her mobile line but was answered by one of her aide who after introduction asked the editor to hold on for his boss, who was not forthcoming.
However, all efforts to speak with her proved abortive.