The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, has linked Governor Samuel Ortom of Benue State, to an alleged fraud, to the tune of N22 billion.
The allegations are contained in a report of an investigation which began in 2016, but was made available to Journalists suddenly, on Monday night.
According to the report, the Governor, between June 30, 2015 and March 2018, ordered the withdrawal of N21.3 billion from four of the State Government accounts in Guaranty Trust Bank, First Bank of Nigeria, and the United Bank for Africa.
On paper, about N19 billion 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 N3 billion 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.”
The anti-graft Agency stated that one person identified as Oliver Ntom, withdrew over N19 billion from the account of the Bureau of Internal Affairs and Special Services, based on the instructions of the Permanent Secretary, Boniface Nyaakor.
The money, which was allegedly withdrawn under the pretext of security votes, was said to have been diverted, while the memos written in respect of the withdrawal were destroyed.
The report added: “Investigations revealed that N19 billion was withdrawn by one Oliver Ntom, a Cashier.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 that 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 that the funds are usually given to six Security Agencies. He said the highest that any Security Agency gets is N10 million a month, while the least any of the Agencies get, 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 Commission stated further, that the funds being spent were not in the budget of the Benue State Government.
It further accused the Governor of failing to pay salaries, despite withdrawing N1.328 million from the Joint State Local Government Account in Fidelity Bank, with number 5030058730.
The report added: “Investigations revealed that one John Bako, a member of one of the security outfits in Benue, withdrew N28 million, while one Andooi Festus, believed to be a Cashier from the Bureau of Local Government and Chieftaincy Affairs, withdrew N1.3 billion. They have been invited.”