The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission has linked Governor Samuel Ortom of Benue State to an alleged fraud to the tune of N22bn.
This is just as the EFCC 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 allegations are contained in a report of an investigation which began in 2016 but was made available to a Punch correspondent on Monday.
According to the report, 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.
On paper, 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 adds,
“Investigations revealed that N19bn was withdrawn by one Oliver Ntom, a cashier.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.”