Saturday, 6 February 2016

Suswam, Others Top List Of Those To Return N107 Looted Funds To Benue Govt

 An exclusive peep into the over 240-page report of the Justice Elizabeth Kpojime Commission that probed all state finances that accrued from 2007 to 2015 has revealed that former Benue State Governor Gabriel Suswam is leading the pack of persons recommended to refund various sums of money to the Benue state government.

Suswam and many of his appointees including civil servants that held key positions in his administration allegedly engaged in dubious expenditures running into billions of Naira.

They include Hon Solomon Wombo, Omodachi Oklobia, Emmanuel Atini, Asen Sambe, Isaiah Ipevnor, Hon Paul Biam, Aza Biam, Maria Iyortyom, Michael Oko Agbam, Miss Ajuma Olokpo and Abel Musa of (GTbank Staff). Others are Mohammed Kabir Rago, Hon. Terna Kester Ikyenge, Hon Terfa Atoza Hindan, Terna Iyorkyaan, San Carlos Benue Farms/Barr Tyokegh, Christian Aba (aka Mad Lion), Sunday D. Umoru, Ruth Ijir, Kpaapka, Andrew Ayabam among many others.

Some of the corporate bodies fingered in looting Benue State includes; Ashitech and Ashi Foods, Carlos Benue Farms, SCAMPT Nigeria Ltd among others.

Justice Margaret Kpojime who led the Judicial Commission of Inquiry into the income and expenditure of the state from 2007-2015 submitted  the panel’s report to Governor Samuel Ortom Monday, February 5th, 2015 where it made far-reaching recommendations.

The Commission recommended that 52 individuals and 10 corporate bodies should refund over N107 billion to the coffers of the state government. It also recommended deeper investigations and possible refund of over N44 billion from transactions they found not in compliance with the laid down financial guidelines.

Kpojime told Gov Ortom that during the period covered by the assignment, N1. 21 trillion accrued to the state from about 27 identified sources out of which N802 billion was appropriated while N219 billion was expended but not appropriated.

A close investigations into the report revealed that apart from the former state governor, former Commissioner of Finance, Omadachi Oklobia, former Special Adviser on Local Governments and Chieftaincy Affairs, Solomon Wombo and two former permanent secretaries, Emmanuel Atini and Asen Sambe, Messrs Isaiah Ipevnor, a former accountant of the Bureau are alleged to have diverted local government funds amounting to N51, 559,859,968.00 into personal use.

They are also accused of paying the sum of N4. 23 billion into the accounts of the Benue State wing of Association of Local Governments of Nigeria, ALGON and diverting same for personal purposes.

Former state ALGON chairman and erstwhile Chairman of Logo local government, Hon Kester Ikyenge and other officials of the association are also implicated in squandering the council funds diverted into ALGON accounts without appropriation.

Ikyenge is currently the member representing Logo State Constituency in the Benue state House of Assembly.

The former governor, Wombo, Okolobia, Sambe, Ipevnor and others were also asked to refund the sum of N3.87 billion being the local government component of SURE-P that was misappropriated.

Suswam is also asked to refund the sum of N450million he personally received from the former government house accountant, Mrs. Janet Aluga, and cashier, Peter Ochoga.

In the course of the panel’s proceedings, it was also discovered that the sum of N212 million which Ipevnor claimed was  given to the Ministry of Justice for undisclosed expenditure turned out to be false as officials from the Ministry of Justice denied receipt of such funds because there were no records to prove his claims.

Former Majority Leader, Hon Paul Biam who recently won his re-election case at the Court of Appeal Makurdi is also one of those to refund money to the government.

The Commission discovered that Hon Biam and his relation, one Aza Biam signed and collected the sum of N210 million and N150 million respectively from the cashier at the state treasury without any backup voucher or even through a cheque. They only wrote on a piece of paper acknowledging receipt and collected the sum in cash.

When asked by the commission, Biam in his testimony was alleged to have admitted that the signature and writing were his but was not involved in such transactions with anyone at any time.

The current permanent secretary in the ministry of Finance,  Mrs. Ruth Ijir, former Accountant General of the State, Kpaapka together with the former governor are to jointly refund the sum of N5.887 billion which was tagged as ‘cost of running government’ withdrawn from state treasury without appropriation.

In many instances, it was discovered that similar cash withdrawals were dubiously made at different times but with the same purpose.

For example, after billions were expended by the former administration for ‘cost of running government’, Mrs. Ijir personally collected another N100 million cash within the same period  (September to December 2014) under the same guise of ‘running of government’ from her cashier. She is been asked to refund same.

The Commission discovered that former Commissioner of Finance Oklobia gave a verbal approval for the release of the sum of N127million to Christian Aba (aka Mad Lion) for what was termed ‘to engage professionals in setting up a Micro Finance Bank for the state.’ Abah and his company, SCAMPT Nigeria limited were asked to refund the sum back to the state treasury.

Sunday D. Umoru was asked to refund the sum of N40 million after he failed to convince the commission that the money which was for what they called ‘Kero Direct’ was handed over to the former Chief Security Officer (CSO) to the governor, Fergus Manger but the officer denied ever collecting such sum from him. Umoru is to refund N40 million.

The Commission revealed that most of the cash withdrawals made by the political appointees and government officials were in outright disregard to relevant procedures as outlined by the financial regulations of government and therefore an abuse of office.

Benue State Governor has promised that government would set up a white paper drafting committee immediately and assured that the white paper would be implemented to the letter.

By Nathaniel Ikyur

No comments:

Post a comment