N28bn Bailout Funds: Suswam, Ortom Trade Words As EFCC Storms Benue State

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The former and current administrations of Benue state are currently engaged in heated war of words over the N28bn bailout funds the state government obtained from the Federal Government for the payment of arrears of salaries to civil servants and local government workers.

While the immediate past governor of the State, Gabriel Suswam accused his successor, Samuel Ortom of misappropriating the N28bn bailout funds, Ortom lashed back that Suswam has no right to speak on how the money has been spent because he (Suswam) his responsible for the state’s current financial ordeal.

Speaking at the meeting of the Peoples Democratic Party members from Benue North-West and Benue North-East Senatorial Districts in Makurdi recently, Suswam accused his successor of not managing the bailout well; adding that the current administration is trying by all possible means to probe his government.

Ortom, on his part, said during an interactive session with journalists on Thursday in Makurdi, that Suswam was responsible for the precarious financial position the state had found itself.

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The governor asked Suswam to explain to Benue people how the ex-governor and 51 other persons mismanaged N107bn as contained in the report of the Justice Kpojime Judicial Commission of Enquiry.

In a related development, the Benue state government has confirmed the arrival of operatives of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), in the state.

However, while confirming the arrival, the state governor maintained that the operatives of the country’s premier anti-graft agency were only in the state to investigate his predecessor, Suswam.

Speaking to Radio Benue on Thursday, Ortom said: “What I’m aware of is that the EFCC came here yesterday to investigate the past administration for diverting 10 rice milling machines that were donated to Benue State Government by Korean Government. It was in 2012 when we had this flood.

“N500 million was given by the Federal Government which was diverted by Suswam’s administration and pocketed.

“EFCC has been here for the past two days. Because as Chief Executive, they notified me that they were coming to the state and why they were coming.

“The recent accusation by ICPC that they discovered we paid N37 million twice for Lobi Stars to the office of the Deputy Governor was done in ignorance; I have further asked but thank God, ICPC did not say they are convicting us or charging us for diverting bailout. They said they are making enquiry.

“This money was paid to Lobi Stars for December and February salary. Lobi Stars as you know is being run by government even before we came on board and that is their allocation for every month.

“They too were not paid for December and February by past administration. So when we got this arrears, we decided to pay them. And the Deputy Governor is the Chairman of Lobi Stars, so all funding of the Club is channeled towards the office of the Deputy Governor. So there was no crime. We are waiting for ICPC to come, the records are there.”

On the contrary, some birds have squealed that the detectives of the commission were actually in the state to investigate the alleged diversion of public fund by the Ortom-led government.



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