EFCC Probes Ortom For Alleged N22bn Fraud- Days After Dumping APC For PDP
Barely less than a week after Governor Samuel Ortom of Benue State officially announced his resignation from the All Progressives Congress (APC), the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission has linked him to an alleged fraud to the tune of N22bn.
This is even as the anti-graft agency also revealed that 21 members of the Benue State House of Assembly are under investigation for allegedly diverting N375m meant for the procurement of vehicles that would be used for oversight functions, The Punch reports.
The allegations are contained in a report of an investigation which began in 2016 but was made available to newsmen on Monday, July 30, 2018.
In the report, it was gathered that the governor, between June 30, 2015 and March 2018, ordered the withdrawal of N21.3bn from four government’s accounts in Guaranty Trust Bank, First Bank of Nigeria and the United Bank for Africa.
The report also revealed that about N19bn out of the money was said to be meant for the payment of six security agencies that had been deployed in the state to address the incessant clashes between herdsmen and farmers.
However, the EFCC stated that less than N3bn of the money was paid to the security agencies while the remainder could not be accounted for.
The report reads in part, “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.”
“Investigations revealed that N19 billion was withdrawn by one Oliver Ntom, a cashier. Sometimes, in a day, he would withdraw as high as N500 million by cashing several cheques worth N10 million 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 N5 million 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 N60 million is given to all the security agencies collectively every month as claimed by the permanent secretary, it cannot amount to half of N19 billion in three years.”
The EFCC said it has also invited one John Bako, a member of one of the security outfits in Benue who withdrew N28 million, and one Andooi Festus, a cashier from the Bureau of Local Government and Chieftaincy Affairs who withdrew N1.3 billion.
The anti-graft agency also said 21 lawmakers of the Benue house of assembly are under probe.
“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,” the EFCC report read.
The EFCC investigation is coming at a time when the Benue governor left the APC for the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP).
In an apparent show of loyalty to the governor, 13 Local Government chairmen in the state last Friday dumped the APC for the PDP.
Yesterday, eight lawmakers of the State House of Assembly served an impeachment notice on the governor.