Benue State Government has come out strongly against a report that Governor SamuelOrtom is currently under the searchlight of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), describing it as a complete lie.
It said the allegation that the governor stole a whopping N4.29billion in just one year in office, was not only false and targeted at tarnishing his image, but that the sources credited with the story, have since repudiated it.
The rebuttal, which came through a statement signed by Tahav Agerzua, Special Adviser, Media and ICT, and made available to us, indicated that the allegation was a way of fighting back by those indicted in the probe carried out on the financial transactions of the immediate past government of the state.
The Justice Elizabeth Kpojime probe panel that carried out the exercise, had in February this year, directed 52 persons including former governor of the state, Gabriel Suswam, to return N107billion stolen from the state coffers between 2007 and 2015, while ordering investigation into the another N44billion.
Friday’s statement from the government, was emphatic that those indicted were now fighting back, by throwing false stories against the governor and his government.
“The publications are part of a grand design by those indicted by the Kpojime Commission for looting N107 billion from the coffers of the state who are using part of the resources to fight the Ortom administration. I appeal to members of the public to disregard the spurious allegations and be assured that efforts to recover the loot are on course,” it said.
The complete statement read: “Our attention has been drawn to publications alleging that the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission was investigating Benue State, Samuel Ortom, over N4.29 billion fraud.
“The allegations which are false and mischievous are calculated at tarnishing the image of the Governor and his administration. Governor Ortom and his officials are not under investigation by any anti-graft body.
“The reports claimed that they were based on three petitions sent to the EFCC. According to the reports, Governor Ortom siphoned over N2.6 billion through the bank account of a member of the House of Representatives, Mr Emmanuel Udende. Mr Udende has already issued a statement denying the authenticity of the said bank details.
“EFCC does not need to be told when huge money hits somebody’s account because the Nigerian Financial Intelligence, NFI Unit is an arm of the Commission which alerts them about all large sums transactions,”’ he stated. ‘”The glo phone number provided in the report is not mine. I don’t have a driving licence. I use my international passport in my transactions. The Bank accounts provided are also not mine. No funds were transferred into my accounts as contained in the report at any point. My bank accounts do not have such amounts of money mentioned.”
“If truly EFCC has received a petition of that nature, why have they not invited me up till now? Should we be hearing about the said petition on the pages of newspapers?”’ the lawmaker queried.
“Checks at the Bureau of Local Government and Chieftaincy Affairs where an alleged N929,903,967.00 was stolen by two persons revealed the following. Mr Festus Andoor is the cashier of the Bureau for Local Government and Chieftaincy Affairs who has the mandate to make withdrawals from the Joint Allocation Account Committee’s Bank account as approved by the 23 local government chairmen at JAAC meetings.
“These approvals include disbursement of funds to tackle security challenges especially herdsmen’s attacks in the 23 local government areas in recent times as well as other emergencies such as the burial of the late Tor Tiv Orchivirigh, Dr Alfred Akawe Torkula.
“The withdrawals made covered the amount mentioned in the allegations and fell within the period quoted by the publications. With regard to John J Bako he is a police officer overseeing the activities of the Special Anti-Robbery Squad in the state. It is on record that the immediate past administration instituted an arrangement of providing monthly logistics to support the squad in the local government areas.
“The current administration inherited this policy and sustained it. None of the amounts referred to has been paid into any private account belonging to Governor Samuel Ortom’s associates as alleged. It is to be noted that the figures quoted in the publications with regard to the Bureau were contained in the submissions it voluntarily presented to the Public Accounts Committee of the State House of Assembly.
“The public is to note that no official of the Bureau or the executive arm is under investigation by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, or the Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Commission, ICPC for any reason whatsoever and there is no basis for such.
“The publications are part of a grand design by those indicted by the Kpojime Commission for looting N107 billion from the coffers of the state who are using part of the resources to fight the Ortom administration. I appeal to members of the public to disregard the spurious allegations and be assured that efforts to recover the loot are on course.”