EFCC freezes accounts of Benue government

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EFCC freezes accounts of Benue government

Gov Samuel Ortom

The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) has frozen three bank accounts belonging to the government of Benue state.

Terver Akase, chief press secretary to Samuel Ortom, governor of the state, disclosed this on Wednesday.

The commission had linked the governor to an alleged fraud to the tune of N22 billion but Ortom denied the allegation.

The EFCC said between June 30, 2015 and March 2018, the governor 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 said less than N3 billion of the money was paid to the security agencies while the rest could not be accounted for.

“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 EFCC had said in a report.

“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The money, which was allegedly withdrawn under the pretext of security votes, was said to have been diverted while the memos written in respect of the withdrawal were destroyed.

But the governor has accused the anti-graft agency of coming after him because he defected from the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) to the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP).

The governor expressed surprise that none of his colleagues is being investigated for the same reason.

“The security vote spending being investigated spans from 2015 to 2018, a period of grave security challenges in the state. I reiterate that the investigation is a clear case of persecution,” he told reporters.

“I have nothing to hide. I assure that the investigators can find nothing incriminating against me. If their focus was on Benue state, they should have started from 1999. But this is not the case. With the enormous security challenges in the state since my assumption of office, it is surprising that any one would expect me to do nothing but keep the security vote in the safe.

“How can you single me out of 36 (governors) for investigation? It (security vote) is not something that any government will begin to disclose. Why should Benue’s case be different if not persecution? If the EFCC wanted a genuine investigation of security vote spending, they should have started from the presidency and across the 36 states.

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