The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) has accused Governor Samuel Ortom of Benue State of financial fraud to the tune of N22billion.
According to the anti-graft, the investigation began in 2016 but the report was however made available to newsmen days after the governor dumped the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) for opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP).
The EFCC in the report alleged that Ortom between June 30, 2015 and March 2018, ordered the withdrawal of N21.3billion from four (4) of the Benue State Government accounts with Guaranty Trust Bank, First Bank of Nigeria and the United Bank for Africa (UBA).
EFCC said that on paper, N19billion was to be used for payment of six (6) security agencies that were deployed to the state to tackle the killings in the state.
“We investigated four bank accounts belonging to two Benue State Government’s agencies. The first agency is the Benue State Government House which has an account in UBA with number 1017348051 and another account in GTB with number 0027952907. These accounts received N1, 916, 635, 206 from the state’s allocation between June 30, 2015 and March 2018.
“The second government agency is the Bureau of Internal Affairs and Special Services. The agency has an account with UBA with number 1007540119 and a First Bank account with number 2023788057. Between the same period, the accounts were credited with N19, 468, 951, 590 from the Benue State allocation.”
The anti-graft however alleged that only N3billion out of the amount was used and the remaining balance could not be accounted for.
EFCC added that Oliver Ntom withdrew over N19billion from the account of the Bureau of Internal Affairs and Special Services in the pretext of security votes based on the instruction of the Permanent Secretary, Boniface Nyaakor.
“Investigations revealed that N19bn was withdrawn by one Oliver Ntom, a cashier. Sometimes, in a day, he would withdraw as high as N500m by cashing several cheques worth N10m each.
“The permanent secretary upon interrogation said anytime security agencies requested funds, he would approach Governor Ortom who would ask him to write a memo to that effect. The permanent secretary would write and the governor would approve the money.
“The permanent secretary said the funds are usually given to six security agencies. He said the highest that any security agency gets is N10m a month while the least any of the agencies gets is N5m a month.
“He said after the money has been released, the governor usually orders that the memo be torn to pieces. It is important to note that if a total of N60m is given to all the security agencies collectively every month as claimed by the permanent secretary, it cannot amount to half of N19bn in three years.”
The EFCC also accused Governor Ortom of failing to pay workers salaries despite withdrawing N1.328billion from the Joint State Local Government Account in Fidelity Bank with account number 5030058730.
“Investigations revealed that one John Bako, a member of one of the security outfits in Benue, withdrew N28m while one Andooi Festus, believed to be a cashier from the Bureau of Local Government and Chieftaincy Affairs withdrew N1.3bn.”
Also, the EFCC accused 21 out of the 30 lawmakers in the State House of Assembly for allegedly diverting part of the N375million meant for the procurement of vehicles in 2016.
The EFCC noted that the State Government had in 2016 awarded a contract worth N417million to Mia-Three Nigeria Limited to procure 30 Prado TXL vehicles for the lawmakers. But only 8 members received the vehicles while others diverted the funds.
“About 21 of the lawmakers are under probe. However, 25 of the lawmakers have returned all the money they received which adds up to N245m. Four others have failed to return the remaining sum of N31m.”