How Ortom crippled Benue economy in 3 years (Part One)
Nigerian Concord Newspaper
It is no longer a news that the present governor of Benue State, Mr. Samuel Ortom, has declared his intention to run for a second term in office but the news is how the governor has crippled the state economy between May 29, 2015 and now.
Governor Samuel Ortom who on assuming office as governor promised to dedicate the state to God has done nothing for close to three years except looting the state treasury massively.
Documents at the disposal of Nigerian Concord Newspaper showed that Ortom had used his political associates to launder 4.3 Billion Naira between December 2015 and August 2016.
Ortom had in 2015 used a member of the House of Representatives that represents Katsina-Ala / Ukum and Logo, Hon Emmanuel Memga Udende, to lauder N2,610,123,020.00 (Two billion, six hundred and ten million, one hundred and twenty three thousand, and twenty naira) through his Fidelity Bank account with number 5332064725.
Udende according to findings used his National Driver’s license with registration number JUX00820AA1, National ID Card with registration number BN005831306, and International Passport with number A04719744 to open the said account.
Apart from that, this newspaper also gathered from the bank that the federal lawmaker also used his two telephone lines with numbers 08072114640 and 08036111345 to open the said Fidelity account.
Ortom according to investigation also laundered several billions of Naira intk two different accounts with First Bank with account number 2014771491, and Zenith Bank with account number 1011631159. Both accounts also belong to Honourable Udende.
During investigation, it was gathered that Governor Ortom made two separate money transfers totaled N2,610,123,020.00 (Two billion, six hundred and ten million, one hundred and twenty three thousand, and twenty naira) into Honourable Udende’s Fidelity Bank account with account number 5332064725 on the 18th December, 2015 and 4th Jan 2016 respectively. Both transactions were made through an inward clearing account number 1810001210300.
The first transfer made into the account was N1,458,593,990 (One billion, four hundred and fifty eight million, five hundred and ninety three thousand, nine hundred and ninety naira) while the second transfer was N1,151,529,036 (One billion, one hundred and fifty one million, five hundred and twenty nine thousand, and thirty six naira).
Governor Ortom had also illegally defrauded the State of about N929,903,967.00 (Nine hundred and twenty – nine million, nine hundred and three thousand, nine hundred and sixty – seven naira) at the Bureau for Local Government and Chieftaincy Affairs.
Facts available at our disposal indicate that the governor used the duo of Festus Andoor and John Bako who are workers at the Bureau to illegally withdraw the said funds from the Joint State and Local Government Service Fidelity Bank account with number 5030058730.
John J. Bako is not amongst the signatories to the JSLG Fidelity Bank account with number 5030058730 but he had severally made withdrawals from same account.
On the order of Governor Ortom, Mr. John Bako withdrew the total sum of N17, 950,000 (Seventeen Million, nine hundred and fifty thousand naira) between November 2015 and the 17th of March 2016.
Also, Bako’s partner, Mr. Andoor Festus, on the 11th February, 2016 withdrew the total sum of N151,806,920 (One Hundred and Fifty – one million, eight hundred and six thousand, nine hundred and twenty naira) from the same Joint State and Local Government Service Fidelity Bank account with number 5030058730 for Governor Ortom. He withdrew the said funds in sixteen different transactions.
However, Benue State was recently ranked 12th overall as highest recipient of funds from the monthly Federation Account allocations to states in Nigeria, having received N73,823,754,968.40 (seventy-three billion, eight hundred and twenty-three million, seven hundred and fifty-four thousand, nine hundred and sixty-eight naira, forty kobo) only.
A breakdown shows that Benue State under the All Progressives Congress (APC) controlled administration of Gov. Samuel Ortom received an average N6,151,979,580.7 (six billion, one hundred and fifty-one million, nine hundred and seventy-nine thousand, five hundred and eighty naira, seven kobo) only monthly without anything to show for it.
Apart from direct looting of state funds, Governor Ortom is also using the award of contracts to his associates and aides to steal from the state purse.
Documents at the disposal of Nigerian Concord Newspaper have revealed how Benue State governor, Chief Samuel Ortom, illegally awarded a contract of 200 million Naira to Capital Project Consult Nig. Ltd, a company that belongs to Mr. Joe Kyaagba, his former Special Adviser on Special Duties.
Mr. Joe Kyaagba is the Managing Director of the said company. He was awarded the contract with Reference Number BNTB-17/2015.
According to the Memorandum with Reference Number MOW&T/ENG/423/1/9 which is exclusively in the possession of Nigerian Concord, the contract which was for the renovation of the State School of Nursing and Midwifery, Makurdi was awarded for 200 million Naira, to Joe Kyaagba’s Capital Project Consult Nigeria Limited on November 11th, 2015. That happened just six months after Ortom assumed duties as governor of the state.
Another instance is the award of road contracts worth over N4.7 Billion to M/S Tongyi New International Construction Company LTD, a company which is owned by his Principal Private Secretary, Mr. Stephen Amase.
As part of his strategy to steal through the award of contracts to his aides and associates, Governor Ortom also awarded
the total sum of N110, 200,00.00 Million to La Mode Business Limited just to organize a musical concert in the state.
La Mode Business LTD which has its corporate address at Oracle House, No. 16 Abdullahi Shelleng Road, High Level Makurdi is a company which directly belongs to a biological daughter of Governor Ortom, Mrs Grace Torkura- Ortom.
The company is a media production outfit with a mandate to provide media services for its clients.
Documents with this newspaper showed that on the 4th of December, 2015, Mrs Grace Torkura-Ortom who is the Chief Executive Officer of La Mode Business LTD wrote a proposal directly to her father, Governor Ortom to seek for an express approval of 110,200,000.00 Naira to organize what she called “a mega musical concert to create an awareness for the fight against hard drugs”
The governor had also used his influence on the Bureau for Local Government and Chieftaincy Affairs to award some general printing contracts to Oracle Business LTD which is his company.
A memorandum with Reference Number BLGCA/OFF/60/VOL,1/29 dated May 27, 2016 and signed by Governor Ortom’s Special Adviser on Local government and chieftaincy affairs, Hon. Titus T. Zam, explained the approval of the tender from Oracle Business Ltd amounting to 20 million Naira for the general printing contract.
Apart from that, the Oracle Business LTD was awarded the contract for the printing of Ballot papers and materials for the last local government election which was held in Benue state.
Also, Ortom, on May 29, 2016 lavished two hundred million Naira tax payers money on the celebration of the 2016 Democracy Day.
Initially, Ortom had boasted through his media aides that he would invite journalists from all the parts of Nigeria to visit all the capital projects that he said his administration had executed since inception.
But to the surprise of the public, the governor canceled his tours with journalists and said that his administration was going to celebrate the Democracy Day in low key.
However, a secret memo that the Office of the governor sent to the state Finance Commissioner in May, 2016 to ask for a whooping 200 million naira on behalf of Governor Ortom to celebrate the Democracy Day has put the governor’s claim that he wanted to have a low key Democracy Day Celebration wrong.
Apart from fake contracts and direct looting of state funds, Governor Ortom also used his romance with Fulani herders to siphone several governor funds.
One of such was when the governor few months ago signed a secret N252 million payment deal with Fulani herdsmen to cover for the 73 cows that were reportedly killed during that time in the Benue/Nassarawa border.
According to a top security source within the governor’s security team, the payment which was to be made for nine months at N28 million monthly was never made to the Fulani herdsmen but it was paid directly to the governor’s account with Benysta Bank in Makurdi.
It would be recalled that the governor has sometimes ago paid N10 million monthly to the Fulani herdsmen for twenty eight months, amounting to N280 million when they alleged that some Benue youths killed fifty cows belonging to them.
In his secret plans to run Benue state aground, Ortom also diverted yet another N550 million meant for the renovation of Judges Quarters in Makurdi into his personal use.
A memo with Reference Number 57/EXC/228/274, a copy available to Nigerian Concord, which was approved by the state exco indicates that the said money which was diverted by the governor was originally meant for the renovation of Judges Quarters.
Survey by our investigators showed that no renovation has been carried out on the Judges Quarters despite the fact that the N550 million was released on the order of the governor by the state ministry of finance long ago.
Another avenue which the governor had used to steal public funds in the last three years was through the skyrocketed workers salaries.
Records at our disposal show that Ortom had embezzled N40.1 billion from the workers salaried he claimed he paid between May and December, 2015.
Documents at the disposal of Nigerian Concord Newspaper have shown that the governor of Benue state, Mr. Samuel Ortom, only paid N2.8b, N2.8b, N3b, N2.9b in May, June, July, August 2015 respectively.
Calculation by our investigators gave just N11.5 billion as what the governor paid to civil servants between the months of May and August, 2015 even though he had claimed that he paid a whooping N31.2 billion as civil servants salaries for those four months.
This means the governor who always says that the state wage Bill is N7.8 billion monthly had embezzled N19.7 billion from the inflated wage Bill between May and August, 2015 alone.
Some of the documents which were voluntarily released to this newspaper by aggrieved staff of the Office of the Benue state Accountant General explained that there was never a time the state wage Bill was N7.8 billion monthly prior to the time Governor Ortom took over power.
The documents which disclosed that the present administration inherited 19,000 workers in May, 2015 also revealed that the last salary which Governor Ortom’s predecessor, Dr. Gabriel Torwua Suswam, paid was about N2.7 billion.
Another sets of documents which were released to Nigerian Concord Newspaper revealed that Governor Ortom who had always claimed to be paying a whooping N7.8 billion monthly only paid N2.7 billion, N2.7 billion, N2.7 billion and N2.7 billion in September, October, November and December 2015 respectively.
Calculation by our investigators based on these fresh documents showed that the governor paid only N10.8 billion as civil servants salaries for the months of September, October, November and December, 2015 instead of the N31.2 billion he claimed he paid for those four months.
This also means that Governor Samuel Ortom had embezzled another N20.4 billion on civil servants salaries between September and December, 2015.
Apart from stealing through workers salaries and pensions, Governor Ortom had also stolen the N85.3 billion windfalls and commercial loans belonging to the state.
According to the documents, the Ortom-led administration which has since inception borrowed heavily has also gotten huge sums of monies as windfalls from unbudgeted sources.
The certified documents showed that Governor Ortom had borrowed N10 billion from the UBA, N6 billion from the First Bank, N10 billion as infrastructural loan from the federal government and another N5 billion Bank Bond.
Our investigation revealed that the said N5b Bank Bond was applied for by the administration of former governor Gabriel Suswam but it was not released to him before he left office in May 2015.
It was also gathered that the Bond which was strictly meant for some road projects was released to Governor Ortom who siphoned it without carrying out any specific road project or paying a dime to any contractor.
Apart from the commercial loans, independent investigation at the federal ministry of finance in Abuja showed that the governor had also received some windfalls like N28 billion bailout funds N12.7b as the first tranche of the Paris Club Refund, N6.8b as the second tranche of the Paris Club Refund and fresh N6.8b as the third tranche of the Paris Club Refund.
The Benue governor had also used foreign trips both official and non official, to steal public funds.
One of such many instances was his approval of the sum of N450 million for a private visit of his wife and the first lady of the state, Dr. Eunice Ortom, to Morocco.
According to documents available to Nigerian Concord, the huge funds were approved by the governor through the Ministry of Finance under the guise that Mrs Ortom was attending a Summit with First Lady Aisha Buhari in Morocco.
At last, Eunice Ortom was not invited for the Morocco Summit but the N450 million went down the drain.
In April 2017, the governor, his wife and a few associates spent a whooping N500 million on a trip to China.
Also, the governor had at a point in 2015 shared N27.3 billion which was meant for the payment of workers salaries with his political associates like Senators Akume and Gemade, and others.
This money which was the first tranche of the bailout funds was shared to the governor’s associates as parts of their financial contributions towards his emergence as governor of Benue state in 2015.
Part Two coming soon