ICPC to Probe Benue, 11 Other States

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• Warns against diversion of LG funds

George Okoh in Makurdi

The Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Commission (ICPC) has said it will investigate Benue State and 11 other state Houses of Assembly over alleged diversion of constituency funds.

This was disclosed by Benue State Governor, Samuel Ortom, at the swearing-in ceremony of 23 Local Government Caretaker Chairmen at the New Banquet Hall of the Benue People’s House in Makurdi.

He said he got the information from a social media platform even as he stated that his state was penciled down to be probe on the application of constituency funds by lawmakers, “so I advise you not to be involved in any financial misappropriation that could land you into such situation because I will not defend you.”

Ortom also advised the local government area chairmen to abide strictly by the guidelines of the Nigeria Financial Intelligence Unit (NFIU) abolishing Joint Account system between the state and local governments which has given the third tier of government the financial autonomy.

According to the governor, “We, the governors, are in court with NFIU to insist that the constitutional provision as it concerns the local governments is followed. I urge you to abide by the guidelines pending the determination of the suit.

“I have not interfered with local government funds, and I do not intend to do so. Guard against illegal practices that tend to give the local government bad image. Our government will not tolerate diversion of funds, and any chairman found outside his domain would be removed.”

He further charged the new chairmen to concern themselves with payment of staff salaries, declaring that he will put an eye on them to ensure prudent application of funds.

Ortom stated that the appointment of the caretaker chairmen was to fill the vacuum created by the expiration of the tenure of the elected council chairmen, stressing that merit was the yardstick used in choosing them.

While tasking the local government chairmen on excellence and the need to prioritise payment of salaries of workers, the governor charged them to relate closely with the people of their respective areas to identify their challenges, instead of relocating to reside in Makurdi, the state capital.

He urged the council caretaker chairmen to also execute projects in accordance with the needs of their communities while exploring avenues to guarantee peace and security.

The governor emphasised on the importance of transparency and prudence in the management of resources accruing to the councils.

He reaffirmed his support for local government autonomy and advocated that implementation of the new guidelines on financial autonomy for local government should follow constitutional procedures to prevent crisis at the third tier of government.

Caretaker Committee Chairman of Guma Local Government Area, Mr. Anthony Shawon, who responded on behalf of his colleagues, expressed appreciation to the Governor for the confidence reposed in them and promised to live up to the expectations.