The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission ( EFCC ) has begun investigation over alleged N4.29billion fraud against the administration of Benue State governor, Samuel Ortom, and other prominent members of the state government, including certain members of the state House of Assembly.
The anti-graft agency’s action was sequel to the receipt of three petitions sent to it by two different persons and a group detailing how Benue State’s funds were allegedly siphoned by Ortom through proxies within his first year in office.
In one of the petitions, Ortom is accused of using a member of House of Representatives to allegedly launder about N2.6billion in a first generation bank, and two other banks.
In the second petition, the petitioners alleged that certain fraudulent activities were perpetrated at the local government areas in the state, claiming that about N929.9million was allegedly diverted at the Bureau for Local Government and Chieftaincy Affairs.
The petitioners further claimed that two persons were used as fronts and allegedly made questionable withdrawals from the Joint State Local Government (JSLG) account number that was domiciled with the Makurdi branch of the third generation bank.
The petitioners also asked the anti-graft agency to investigate some members of the state House of Assembly over the questionable N750million car loans given to them.
According to the petitioners, only selected few lawmakers were allegedly given cars while fake chassis numbers were reportedly inscribed on vouchers to indicate that other members of the House also got the cars.
The petition reads in part, “The Bureau had sent the request for bailout by the staff strength they met. Yet, soon as the bailout was received, a staff audit was carried out and Mr. Zam who is Governor Ortom’s special adviser in charge of the Bureau, publicly announced that over 5,000 “ghost workers” were discovered.
“We are worried that after doing away with over 5,000 workers, the remaining confirmed staff are still daily groaning under the yoke of non-payment of their wages more than seven months after the N15.5billion bailout, which was supposed to address the issue, was received.”
When contacted, a top official of the EFCC, who sought anonymity because of the sensitive nature of the matter, confirmed the receipt of the petitions to LEADERSHIP last night.
He added that the operatives of the agency are investigating the veracity of the petitions and would soon take appropriate action.
He said, “I can confirm to you that the Commission has received petitions against Governor Ortom and other dramatis personae over alleged diversion and other financial infractions. We have also commenced investigation on the veracity of the petitions. And I can also tell you that the commission will soon take necessary action on the matter.”