Benue Contract Scam: Detained SUBEB Officials Indict Ortom’s Cabinet Members
Facts have emerged on why men of the Special Fraud Unit at the Force headquarters, Abuja, stormed Makurdi, the Benue State capital, on Tuesday, and whisked away two cashiers of the Benue State Universal Basic Education Board (SUBEB), Paul Mella and Jacob Agera.
There were reports on Social Media that the policemen came to arrest the cashiers for refusing to provide the board’s financial information between 2011 and 2015 as requested three weeks ago but, Nigerian Concord has gathered from the Force headquarters that the arrest was majorly on the refusal of the suspects to provide the board financial reports within the last six months.
It would be recalled that Nigerian Concord had on August 11, 2016 broken a news, stating that the police would soon go after some officials of Benue state government over series of petitions that some anti-graft agencies had received from stakeholders who were alleging irregularities in the award of about 700 SUBEB contracts.
A reliable source at the Public Relations office of the Force headquarters maintained that the last six months financial reports of the Benue state SUBEB are being asked for by the police as a result of a petition which was received by police in August.
The source added that a copy of the petition which was received at the Force headquarters on August 10, 2016 was also sent to the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) by the petitioners.
According to Nigerian Concord’s findings, the arrest of the two cashiers had to do with the illegal ways which contracts for renovation of about 700 primary schools in the state were awarded by SUBEB under the administration of the state governor, Mr. Samuel Ortom.
Our source made it known that the police Is interested in investigating a part of the petition which disclosed that the State Universal Basic Education Board (SUBEB) awarded the 700 projects to members of the All Progressive Congress (APC) alone amidst irregularities and fraud.
It was gathered that all the 700 contracts were awarded by SUBEB for political patronage without any due process, and this was done on the instruction of the state government.
The source pressed further that the Benue State Commissioner for Arts and Culture, Honourable Sekav Dzu Iyortyom, has been indicted by the two detained cashiers who told the police this evening that he (Iortyom) fraudulently hijacked some of the SUBEB contracts for his private companies.
The source revealed to Nigerian Concord that one of the cashiers told the police how Governor Ortom had insisted that some of the SUBEB contracts should be awarded to Vakes and Allatets and Sedi Global Holdings which belong to Honourable Iortyom despite that he is a serving commissioner in the state.
This newspaper also gathered from the Force headquarters that plans have been concluded to arrest Iortyom so he can explain his roles in the contracts that were awarded to his companies even as he still serves as a public office holder.
It was also learnt that the suspects had also disclosed to their interrogators that the two companies belonging to Iortyom were not qualified for the Buruku contracts that were awarded to them on the insistence of Governor Ortom because they did not even register with Benue State Tenders Board.
Another source at the Force headquarters also told Nigerian Concord that the two suspects are also being questioned on how Chief Agbo Ogah who was the Chief of Staff to a former Senate President, was able to illegally hijacked 11 SUBEB contracts allocated to Ogadigbo.
Agbo who is a chieftain of the APC in Benue isn’t from Ogbadigbo but he was able to use his private company, Nee Oil and Gas, to hijack about 11 contracts allocated to the area.
Also, Hon. Moses Oduh who is presently serving as a Special Adviser to the Governor, is being investigated by the police for using his company, Ifene Nig. Ltd, which did not participate in the bidding process to hijack some of the SUBEB contracts.
This newspaper had recently reported that the EFCC and ICPC are reportedly set to visit Benue State to investigate the state government under Governor Samuel Ortom as a result of several petitions they received from some stakeholders in the APC who are alleging gross irregularities and fraud in the award of SUBEB contracts to some of the party’s top members especially those who are currently holding public offices in the State.
Reports have it that the State Universal Basic Education Board (SUBEB) has earmarked over 700 projects in State owned primary schools which range from construction of new classroom blocks to renovation of existing facilities across the 23 LGAs of the State.
According to one of the petitions a copy which was received by this newspaper, Dr. Samuel Ortom had allegedly mandated that APC’s executives of each of the 276 council wards in the state should nominate a party member that is a contractor to bid and be given a contract project for each of the wards.
According to the petition, Governor Ortom did this to enable the party Executives use the proceeds from the execution of the contracts in funding the party activities at the ward and local government levels.
Trouble however started when some Wards and local government areas weren’t given any contract even after raising funds amongst themselves to form some kangaroo companiesin order to obtain tax clearance and the required bidding documents.
It was reported that the Tender Board however awarded majority of the contracts to some of the party chieftains who are presently serving under the government of Governor Ortom.