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Transparency Initiative calls for urgent investigation on alleged massive corruption in Benue State

Initiative for Transparency, IT, an anti-corruption organisation has called on the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, to as a matter of urgency investigate the Benue State Governor, Samuel Ortom over with it termed ‘serial appropriation of the state funds and abuse of power.’

IT said the call became imperative so as draw the attention of the international community to the fact that Benue State was dying from the inside slowly as a result of non-stop theft of the state’s resources on an industrial scale by Ortom and his lackeys.

The group’s Convener, Pastor Samson Ayodele, while addressing newsmen in Abuja on Sunday, alleged the governor uses the killings in the state as excuse to divert more of the state’s funds into his personal accounts.

Ayodele alleged that the Ortom’s associates were not left out in the looting spree going on in the state.

IT said failure of the anti-graft agency to bring Ortom and his associates to book would further collapse Benue and fade it into cultural pot of time.

The convener alleged that the Paris Debt Refund accruable to Benue state remains unaccounted for till date, stressing that some of those that had asked questions about the money were run out of town or worse still they got killed under questionable circumstances.

He said, “The Ecological Fund accruable to Benue state remains unaccounted for.

Internally generated revenue, which is what now powers a few states in the country, have largely gone to service the thugs that Mr. Ortom uses for his nefarious acts.

“The few projects that the governor claims to have executed are of the lowest quality imaginable while they cost more than four times the global pricing index.

“Public sector workers in the employment of Benue state government have the rawest deal in the land as they perpetually remain unpaid for long stretches of time and are only paid fractions of what they are being owed as a means of releasing pent up anger when the people of the state are at breaking point.

“Under the guise of addressing the crisis in the state, which he has been fingered as being responsible for, Mr. Ortom has sharply increased the security spending of the state without result to show for it.

“It is on the strength of the foregoing that we have found imperative to expose the Ortom administration as a cesspit of corruption that it is. it is on this basis that we demand that the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) should step to the plate and do its work as things would have taken an irreversible turn should the Commission wait till the governor’s tenure is up for him to lose his immunity.

“Immunity did not stop the courts from granting EFCC’s request to freeze the bank account that Ekiti State Governor, Ayo Fayose used to receive alleged proceeds of corruption so Benue state cannot be different. Even while Ortom’s immunity subsists, his aides that have no immunity and facilitated the theft of state money should immediately be tried for their roles.

“We make this demand because there is credible information that the EFCC has all the evidence it needs to prove that Ortom has stolen another N18.8 billion, which the reason Benue workers cannot get salaries as at when due. It is the reason the state can never witness any positive development under the present administration of Samuel Ortom and his band of thieves.

“The EFCC is presently investigating the governor for this fresh N18.830 billion which was withdrawn on his behalf by the trio of Oliver Mtom, Aorga Emmanuel and Ochoga Peter. The three suspects confessed to the EFCC two weeks ago that they truly withdrew the huge funds for the governor from Benue State accounts with UBA, GTB and First Bank.

“In their admittance of culpability in the raiding of the state resources, Oliver Mtom confessed that he withdrew N18 billion; Aorga Emmanuel and Ochoga Peter confessed that they withdrew N700 million and N130 million respectively, amounting to the N18.830 billion that was stolen for only one person at a time workers and pensioners have not been paid for more than a year. This amount can cater for five months’ worth of workers’ salaries, which leaves us wondering why Ortom keeps lamenting that there is no money to pay salaries.

“We want the EFCC to also go after all the accessories to this theft, who are people that should have queried the questionable withdrawals but failed to ask questions or raise alarm. Some of them are the six signatories to the three accounts from where the huge funds were withdrawn. These are Mr. Dzege (Permanent Secretary, Government House), Mr. Daniel Terzungwe Aernyi (Permanent Secretary, Bureau of Internal Affairs and Special Services), Cecilia Ayom, Boniface Iornenge, Patrick A. Aba and Elizabeth Anyanwu. These six people have also been indicted for signing the cheques that were used to withdraw the N18.830 billion. We know the EFCC has copies of the cheques with their signatures.

“Mr. Dzege and Daniel Aernyi had been invited by the agency last week. Dzege got administrative bail after he confessed and promised to report back to the EFCC headquarters with documents that detail how the frauds were perpetrated. Mr. Daniel Aernyi was detained for trying to conceal some already known facts.

“With the benefit of these facts, the Initiative for Transparency is appealing to EFCC not to for anything allow this case to die because unlike the incidents of theft of public money in other states, the case of Benue is tied to a river of blood where people have been massacred to divert attention from the theft of their money. People are dying of hunger and frustration because the money to pay them for work duly done have been diverted to the governor’s personal account.

“We urge the Federal Government to take the necessary steps to stop further release of funds (the ones that can be withheld) to the Ortom administration until a prudent regime is in place in Benue state as any additional funds released will end up like the N18.8 that went into private pockets.”

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