Ebonyi artisans vow to reclaim members' diverted funds by fraudulent agents


By Victor Nwegede

The members of Artisans Association of Nigeria, Ebonyi State Chapter, numbering over 2,500 on Thursday vowed to reclaim their survival funds allegedly diverted by the fraudulent agent(s) who did their capturing in the state.

The members of association who expressed anger on the diversion of the Federal government's survival fund/grant meant for them by fraudulent agent(s) allegedly engineered by the desk officer, Mr Stephen Eze, who captured them as directed by the higher authourities. 

NATIONAL PANEL had reported that the association petitioned against the ugly development by writing  a letter tagged, "unlawful exclusion/fraudulent diversion of artisans survival fund/grant meant for artisans association of Nigeria, Ebonyi State Chapter beneficiaries and impersonation by Mr Stephen Eze and appeal for urgent redress" to the  Ebonyi State Commissioner for Human Capital Development and Monitoring, Mrs Ann Aligwe, and asked for her urgent  intervention to reclaim the diverted fund.

The state Chairman  of the association, Pastor Eze Friday Nwaze vowed to reclaim his members' survival fund, described Stephen Eze's antics as illegal and  contrarily to the Federal government's plan for artisans in the state during their meeting on Thursday at Abakaliki.

Pastor Nwaze said, "Artisan Association of Nigeria, Ebonyi State Chapter is the only existing body of artisans in the state and all the members were captured through the profiled list, confirmed by the Federal and state governments and nothing will stop us to reclaim the survival fund meant for our members by the Federal government."

The Chairman expressed surprise at the way non-artisans in the state received bank alerts without any of his members whose names contained in the profiled list got paid of the survival fund.

He therefore, accused the Desk Officer, Stephen Eze to have championed the diversion of their fund, by capturing non-artisans in an attempt to displace the authentic members in the state.

Though on phone call, the accused, Mr Stephen Eze told NATIONAL PANEL that he is not connected with the diversion of the state artisans' survival fund.

Stephen Eze said, over 4,000 artisans in the state were captured by his office as directed by Federal government. 

He said: "The truth is that, it has not been diverted by whoever piloting the programme. The list given to us, was what we worked on. 

"I don't know all the records of the artisans I captured.  I believe I captured up to 4,000 plus. I don't know whether there's an estimated number required by the Federal government from Ebonyi State for artisans. I am just a field officer and whatever I was directed to capture, that I captured. 

"The artisans in the state had different lists. I can't really tell you their leaders.  I got one list from NASSI, their office is at Vanco Area, new market road junction along Ogoja Road, Abakaliki, chaired by one Mr Aja. 

"We went and captured Artisan Association of Nigeria, Ebonyi State Chapter led by Pastor Eze Friday Nwaze.  We stayed in their offices and captured them.  

"I can't tell why the artisans have not received alert after capturing like others. Eze once told me that some of his people have not received alert. 

"The artisans' leaders can contact the authorities in charge of the programme.
I will call the heads of the association and tell them whom to meet to avoid suspecting me as if I played fouls during the capturing. At my own side, there was no foul play, unless any of the chairmen of the association."

However, the Secretary of the Artisan Association of Nigeria, Ebonyi State, Mr Ugochi Crescent Nnadozie, noted that,  "from the Federal government directive for the survival fund, it was meant for our members whose name were among the profiled list, approved by the Ministry of Human Capital Development and Monitoring in state. 

"The ministry transmitted our profiled  names to Abuja. After seeing our profiled names at Abuja and sent it back through the agent (the desk officer) to come and capture us, which he came with,  and captured us here in Ebonyi State.

"We were not up to 4,000, he even  captured less than 3,000. Even the names of our members sent to him from Abuja, about 500, we pleaded him to come and finish the names, but all our efforts to bring him back to do that, proved abortive.

"In Ebonyi State, our association is registered with CAC. All Artisans are under this umbrella. It is our association that unites them, no other body in Ebonyi State."

He appealed to the bodies responsible for the Artisans survival fund to investigate the case and bring the desk officer who did their capturing to book for laying hands into the diversion of their grant.

He also appealed to the authorities to make sure that the real artisans meant for the survival fund get their entitlements. 

The state Treasurer of the Association, James Chinenye Onwe, equally said that Ebonyi has not other association uniting all Artisans in the state except the one led by Pastor Eze Friday Nwaze.

"We don't have any other artisan association in Ebonyi State except the one led by Pastor Eze Friday Nwaze. Any person or group trying to hijack what belongs to the artisans from this state is not good, and should be considered as a criminal.

"They have hijacked everything to the extent we are now looking for what belongs to us. We did our capturing for the survival fund programme and surprisely, we began to hear a strange news on diversion of our funds. 

"Government and the agencies in charge should rise into action by bringing all the fraudsters who hijacked the survival funds meant for artisans of Ebonyi State face the wrath of law and get us paid like other states in the country," Mrs Onwe said.

It could be recalled that the association has unveiled her 2021 action plans, which centred on how to make impactful contributions in the state in a mega style. 

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