The Nigerian Cooperative Women Alliance (NICOWA) is again on the news for the wrong reasons.
The administration of the National President, Dr Esther Eka in the last three years has been bedeviled with controversy surrounding financial misappropriation and administrative ineptitude.
The recent debacle stems from the December 14, 2014 flag-off of the organization and disbursement of N100 million loan facilities to about 370 women group.
The chunk numbers of these women groups have seemingly thrown cautions to the air to demand for the disbursement of the funds without delay.
The benefiting groups were supposed to cart away between N500, 00 and N2 million each.
On the day of the flag-off Eka openly said Organisation was now prepared to commence the tangible empowerment of its over 8 million members across the country.
The managing director of the financial consultant of the NICOWA, the Future Growth Microfinance Bank Ltd, Mrs Frances Bekey, had made the presentation of the N100 million cheque to the group for the disbursement.
A close source to the National President told newsmen that the loans could not be disbursed because of an in-house squabble arising from the disbursement formula.
The sources further said Eka had fallen out of favour with many of the executive members for not accepting to give the authorization for the disbursement.
According to the source, the National President openly assaulted Mr Yemi, manager of NICOWA micro finance bank.
Eka had challenged the bank manager?s generosity for approving the sum of N2 million each for the groups as according to her, each group should not be given more than N500,000 irrespective of project sizes.
The decision has generated “hot blood?? among the members, forcing the bank manager to contemplate resignation.
Another close source to the National Secretariat, Abuja revealed that the organization is working with a notable political party to endorse a multi-million dollar agreement to give up its 8 million registered members across the country in the forthcoming presidential elections.
Daily Times recalls that the Nigerian police, Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC and other anti graft agencies have been urged to investigate the activities allegations of fraud by a non-governmental organization and its leadership for fraudulently collecting money from unsuspecting women.
NICOWA, our sources disclosed mobilized women traders across the six geo-political zones of the country that were made to pay various sums of money for NICOWA- capital -shares, identity cards, affiliation, insurance and other sundry charges under the guise of activating the empowerment.
However, trouble started after women have paid for affiliation fee amounting to over 30 million Naira and after almost a year, no woman was empowered thereby prompting some stakeholders to opt out of the organization and others calling on law enforcement agencies to help them recover their funds.
Another startling revelation according to the women was the change of account following discovery that Eka had unilaterally transferred funds from NICOWA?s account to Malaysia.
In Ondo state, the women through the state project coordinator, Mr. Olakunori Olasupo have engaged the services of O.B Farounnbi & Associates, a law firm to pursue their cause.
The chapter has petitioned the Inspector General of Police to investigate the matter.
Nasarawa state coordinator, Mrs. Mercy Enwongulu has also submitted a similar petition to the state Security Service.
In other petitions from other chapters addressed to the inspector general of police, the State Security Service and the public complaints commission, and made available to newsmen the women alleged further that NICOWA resulted to media propaganda claiming that it had began disbursement of the promised empowerment of the women when it became obvious that they were taking up the matter.
Another stakeholder in Lagos, Dele Dada lamented that failure of NICOWA to empower women was causing credibility problems for stakeholders who were used as foot soldiers to mobilize the women who have paid over N5 million.
Concurring with the allegations, national secretary of NICOWA, Hon. Theresa Amaechi who is also coordinator for south east distanced herself from any empowerment. ?As secretary of NICOW, I should know if there has been any form of empowerment?.
However president of NICOWA, Esther Ekah recently told newsmen that the petitions were from people who were envious of the achievements of the cooperative and that they were bent on blackmailing its officials.
The continuous complaints of fraud and administrative lapses inherent in a cooperative that prides itself as the umbrella of all women cooperative groups in the country calls for investigation.
NICOWA has persistently galvanized its members, with illiterates rural dwellers constituting the largest membership across the country to do the bidding of the “almighty National President?? who is obviously above the law.