Three Lawmakers In Benue State Docked Over N750m Fraud

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The Benue State Governor, Mr. Samuel Ortom, on Thursday lauded the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission for arresting and investigating the Speaker of the state House of Assembly, Mr. Terkimbir Ikyange, and three principal officers of the assembly.

Ortom spoke with State House correspondents shortly after meeting with President Muhammadu Buhari at the Presidential Villa, Abuja.

The principal officers of the assembly were invited to Abuja on Tuesday over alleged misappropriation of N750m meant for the purchase of cars for members.

Others invited by the commission included the Deputy Speaker, James Okefe, and the Majority Leader, Benjamin Adanyi.

While lauding the EFCC over the development, the governor said his government would never shield anybody  found to be corrupt or wanting.

He said, “Yes, it (the arrest of the lawmakers) is a good thing. It is part of the process. They are under investigation by the EFCC.

“From day one, I brought up a slogan that, ‘if you chop money, money will chop you’. We have to be careful and I have sent signals to all that nobody is above the law.

“If you do it wrong, you will go your own way. As far as I am concerned, they are under investigation. Let us see the outcome we would have.

“As far as I am concerned, my government will not shied anybody who is corrupt and who is found wanting. Myself as the governor and every other lieutenant are open to scrutiny; there is Freedom of Information Bill and people are allowed to get information from these sources.”

The governor, however, warned against peddling of false information against government officials.

He cited an example of a recent allegation of illegal transfer of $2.4bn levelled against his government, saying there was no substance in the claim.

“The only thing is that there is no point telling lies and peddling falsehood against leaders. Like I heard somebody said, we transferred $2.4bn into an account.

“Which account? Where is the money? Money that I don’t have to do local government election or to pay salaries? If I have it, won’t I pay them?

“So, it is allowed. The EFCC is an agency that is charged with investigation and where somebody is found culpable, you prosecute.

“So, they are free to do their job in Benue State. I have given them free hand: ICPC, EFCC, and even for me, I am doing independent prosecution of those who are corrupt,” he said.

The governor also said that a commission established by his administration came up with a report that N107bn should be retrieved from 52 persons, including the former governor, Gabriel Suswam.

He said he would not leave any stone unturned to ensure that his government recover the money because he needed the money for the development of the state.

Ortom disclosed that an unnamed person who was indicted had already offered to refund N355m.

He said the State Executive Council had already approved the deal on Wednesday.

He said the government would not prosecute anybody who returns money.

Ortom said he used the opportunity of his meeting with Buhari to intimate him of the security situation and economic issues in the state.

He expressed optimism that the strategies being put in place by his government would address kidnappings and killings being experienced in the state.

He recalled that more than 600 arms and ammunition were recovered during the recent amnesty programme introduced by the state.

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