•  Tackles opposition party over alleged mismanagement of N400bn

By George Okoh in Makurdi

The Benue State Governor, Mr. Samuel Ortom, has described the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) as a tool of witch-hunt in the hands of the All Progressives Congress (APC).

Ortom has also stated that the smear campaign against him by the main opposition party in his state, which claimed he mismanaged N400 billion was an indication that APC has lost steam and has nothing to tell the people ahead of this year’s elections.

The governor said it was shocking that the Information Minister, Lai Mohammed, vowed that the federal government would interrogate presidential candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Alhaji Atiku Abubakar, on his return from the United States of America.

In a statement issued yesterday by his Press Secretary, Mr. Terver Akase, the governor described Mohammed’s claim at the press conference as one of the most absurd actions of any government.

“With this move, the Buhari administration is clearly on a voyage of misplaced priorities while also usurping functions of the country’s institutions, which ought to be independent”

“The plan of the federal government to take over the job of Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) to question the PDP stabdard-bearer has confirmed our earlier conclusion that the anti-graft agency has not only lost its neutrality but has also conceded its constitutional role to the APC administration”.

He added that the EFCC is now the witch-hunt tool in the hands of APC selectively unleashed on opponents of the government in power.” This is contrary to the EFCC Act of 2004 which emphasizes that the Commission treats all persons and cases it investigates without bias or prejudice.”

He said he is confident that the current attempt by the Buhari’s administration to smear the reputation of Atiku Abubakar will end as another vain chase like the previous ones.

Meanwhile, the APC’s gubernatorial candidate in the state, Mr. Emmanuel Jime, has alleged that the Benue State Government realised over N400 billion since Ortom took over government of the state in 2015 without any thing to show for it

Jime made the remark at the flag off of his governorship campaign at the Ibrahim Babangida square Makurdi at the weekend

He said when the Ortom  administration assumed office in May 2015, one of its first actions was to accuse its predecessor of stealing N107 billion from state coffers. “Someone told us, that if he had such money he would transform Benue State into the United Kingdom or the United States of America. However, in the last four years, well over N400 billion has accrued to the coffers of the state. But rather than get better, Makurdi our state capital has become the filth capital of Nigeria and we are nowhere near Lafia our nearest neighbour in Nasarawa state which was created only in 1991”

He said what obtains instead is that the governor is richer than the state, with flourishing companies financed from the state coffers.

Also speaking, the National Chairman of APC, Adams Oshiomhole, vowed that Ortom would be picked up by relevant authorities, over allegations of embezzlement of N23 billion, as soon as his immunity expires as state governor on May 29, 2019.

He explained that a whopping sum of N19 billion was withdrawn from the Special Services Account of the state, while another N1.9 billion was stolen from the government house account.

But Ortom said the current smear campaign against him by the APC has shown that the opposition party has lost steam and has nothing to tell the people ahead of this year’s elections.

The governor spoke yesterday at a thanksgiving mass organised for him by the Isherev and Utyondu communities in Guma and Makurdi Local Government Areas, at Saint Francis Mission, Daudu.

Ortom described as baseless, allegations that he defrauded the state government and funded his private business organisations, saying he is ready to waive his immunity and face prosecution if need be.

Ortom said the expansion of the business conglomerate, which he established before he assumed office was being funded from bank loans from the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), the Bank of Industry (BoI), as well as Nexim Bank.

“Before I became Governor I was a well-established industrialist and although I no longer manage the companies which I set up, they are being expanded from loans obtained from various financial institutions and the records are there,” he added.