From George Okoh in Makurdi
The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) has frozen three bank accounts belonging to the government of Benue state.
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.
Terver Akase, Chief Press Secretary to Governor Samuel Ortom of Benue state, said: “Yes, it is true that accounts of the Benue State Government have been frozen by EFCC. It is part of the political witch-hunt against Governor Samuel Ortom. The action of EFCC is already having negative impact on the running of government in Benue State. It is a move that will affect salaries, pensions and other sundry payments.
“The question we are asking is; why did EFCC not investigate the governor’s security votes when he was still a member of APC? Why start the investigation now?”
He said EFCC should not allow itself to be used as an attack dog unleashed against perceived political opponents.
“Let the Federal Government tell us how much it has spent on prosecuting the fight against Boko Haram and how much it spent on the other operations such as Python Dance, Crocodile Smile and Whirl Stroke.”
He added that Benue had suffered heavy attacks by Fulani herdsmen since the beginning of the year even as he said legitimate support were given security agencies to protect the people of the state.
“Governor Ortom has not diverted funds. He runs a transparent administration”, he said.
He said the state government will welcome the investigation, but added it should start from the Presidency and go across the 36 states. “Benue should not be singled out for victimisation, intimidation and harassment as the Federal Government with its agencies is currently doing.”