How alleged ‘Petitions’ against Baraza evoke fears among Cooperatives in Bayelsa

The last may not have been heard about the controversial statement, quoting the Bayelsa state Bureau for Cooperative Development as stating that it has reviewed all cooperative surpluses downward to 15%.

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The said statement which was purportedly signed by the Director of the bureau, Mr. Fredrick Sese and aired in some Bayelsa based radio stations last Thursday generated serious uproar as many who belong to one cooperative or the other, went to the social media, thong lashing the state government for trying to make life more miserable for them.

The state Commissioner for Trade, Industry and Investment, Mr. Otokkito Oparminola, who was said to be troubled by the said radio announcement, immediately denounced the statement, stating that he was not aware neither did he direct anyone to make such an announcement.

Speaking to our correspondent in his office in Yenagoa, the commissioner said “when I heard the announcement which was also trending on the social media, l quickly summoned the director of the bureau to my office but he denied giving that kind of instructions.

“What really transpired was that he had a meeting with some cooperative officials and they had some suggestions but they didn’t conclude on anything because for him to give any directive, he must write to me, and I will sick approval from His Excellency before any statement of that nature could be issued.

“The radio announcement was not even signed by anybody. I don’t know who went and did that but the bureau never issue any statement.”

The director of the bureau, Fredrick Sese, on his part also denied issuing the contended statement, noting that his office is being inundated with reports of some cooperative societies who are into forex business running away with contributors’ funds.

He pointed out that eleven petitions from members of foremost cooperative, Baraza Multiple Purpose Cooperative Society, were already on his table over inability of the cooperative to pay them their 25% monthly returns as agreed.

Sese noted that he had been holding regular meetings with heads of cooperatives on how they could be sustainable, adding that the last meeting he had with them only produced some suggestions on the way forward but decisions were not taken because he lacked the authority to do so without approval from his superiors.

He said, he invited Baraza to a meeting on the 18th of May to answer questions on the petitions against it from its members but neither its Chief Executive Officer nor any representative appeared, noting that he only had the meeting with other cooperatives which ended with only suggestions.
In a video interview with some social media influencers which had already gone viral, Sese said “we have the reports of certain cooperative societies that are into forex business that have run away with people’s money.

“On that note, we called on cooperatives that are into forex to come to my office to rub minds and suggestions were made on how they can move forward and become sustainable but no decision was taken by the government.

“I am a civil servant. Before a decision can be taken l must seek approval from my superior who is the commissioner for trade and industry. After those suggestions were made, l told them that we are going to have further meetings on how we can go about it.

“The next day, I was shocked that a certain radio station was quoting me that forex cooperatives should bring down their interest rates, it’s not from me.

“We normally meet with cooperatives that are having difficulties in paying their cooperators. Over 11 petitions have been written from Baraza that they have made contributions but have not been paid.
“We have to invite Baraza to come and explain why they have not paid their contributors. The meeting was to hold on Wednesday (May 18).

When contacted, the CEO of Baraza, Dr. Miebi Bribena denied being petitioned to the state government.
Responding to a text message sent to his cellphone by the Publisher/Editor-in-Chief of this medium, Bribena said, “Good evening Sir. I am not aware of any petition to the state government. Thanks.”
Meanwhile, the outrage created by the purported radio announcement was further heightened when the CEO of Baraza took to his Facebook page, giving details of the resolutions of a meeting allegedly held in the office of the director, bureau for cooperative development, Frederick Sese, slashing returns of cooperatives to not more than 15%.

In a statement he personally authored, Bribena tutored his cooperative members through the Facebook, saying “On the outcome of the meeting with the Bayelsa Bureau of Cooperative Development, I know there have been concerns in the past few days as regards the percentage we pay out to members of the cooperative and the duration of the termination and withdrawal of contributions.

“Now, for those of us who are not aware, in a meeting this week, precisely on Wednesday (18th of May) the Director for Bayelsa Bureau of Cooperative Development, Mr Fredrick Sese called on all Cooperatives especially those trading in online FOREX to review their monthly returns on contributions downward as enshrined in the Cooperative Act 2004.

“According to him (Frederick Sese), the Act stipulates that any member of the Cooperative Society who wants to terminate membership or withdraw contribution will have to wait for a period of 6 months before termination and this is subject to availability of funds.”

Bribena’s Facebook tutorials did not go without hash reactions from many Bayelsans, especially Baraza members who had already been expressing resentments over the uncertainties flickering around the cooperative.

As a state dominated by civil servants who do not know much about profit making business, Bayelsans do not count it funny whenever there are negative reports about cooperatives which is their major business, especially those who have contributed huge sums into Baraza that is now struggling to avoid total collapse.

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