Benue Agric commissioner confirms N12 million fraud on fertilizer sales

Hon. James Anbua

Hon. James Anbua

The Benue state commissioner for Agriculture and Natural Resources, Hon. James Anbua, has confirmed earlier report by Nigerian Concord where he was accused to have colluded with two other officials of the Ministry to dupe a farmer, Dr. Felix Lawani, of about twelve million Naira for fertilizer sales.

In the report, the commissioner, the Director of Finance of the ministry, Mrs. Christiana Mhambe, and one Mr. Samson Abeh who is an official of the ministry had used the bank account of the Ministry to dupe the victim, Mr. Lawani

The account details were given as: Benue State Ministry of Agriculture and Natural Resources, Union Bank PLC, 0035386205.

But Hon. Anbua in his reactions confirmed the incident, saying that he had no hands in the fraudulent activity of his officials whom Dr. Lawani had reported to the police for defrauding him under the guise that they wanted to sell him some fertilizers at subsided rates.

Hon. Anbua stated in his reactions that he was the one who contacted the police and handed the matter to them for investigation when he discovered the said transaction.

Speaking further in his reactions, the commissioner said that the new policy of government under the Ortom administration does not permit the Ministry to handle fertilizer sales directly as all such transactions are handled by accredited vendors and government only pays 38% subsidy to the vendors.

But both the Director of Finance, Christiana Mhambe, and Mr. Samson Abeh have insisted that Hon. James Anbua was the one that ordered this suspected fraudulent transactions.

It would be recalled that Hon. James Anbua is presently under police investigation for duping Mr. Felix Apeh Lawani of a total sum of N12 million for sales of fertilizers.

According to copies of the police reports(attached to this story) which were obtained by Nigerian Concord this morning, the suspect (Hon. Anbua), the Director of Finance of the ministry, Mrs. Christiana Mhambe, and one Mr. Samson Abeh who is an official of the ministry had used the bank account of the Ministry to dupe the victim, Mr. Lawani

Copies of the police reports gave the account details which the victim paid the 12 million Naira to as Benue State Ministry of Agriculture and Natural Resources, Union Bank PLC, 0035386205

In the police reports, Mr. Felix Lawani stated that sometime in late May 2016, an acquaintance, Mr. Solomon Ogidi, of number 566 Ankpa Quarters, Makurdi, Benue State, informed him (Lawani) of the sale of fertilizers at subsidised rates by Benue State Government through the Ministry of Agriculture and Natural Resources to encourage massive agricultural production in the State.

According to Lawani who said he immediately showed his interest in the sales, Mr. Solomon Ogidi introduced him to Mr. Samson Abeh of Benue State Ministry of Agriculture to secure the allocation of fertilizers through registered Cooperative Societies.

Lawani, in the police report, continued that Mr. Abeh told him that he (Lawani) would be issued three thousand (3000) bags of fertilizers at the cost of twelve million (N12,000,000.00) Naira only, through two registered cooperative societies.

The victim continued that Samson Abeh informed him that the transaction was predicated on payment of the sum of N12,000,000.00 only, each in the names of the two Cooperative Societies to be introduced or named by him (Lawani) to the account of the Benue State’s Ministry of Agriculture and Natural Resources, given as: MINISTRY of AGRICULTURE and NATURAL RESOURCES, UNION BANK PLC., WITH ACCOUNT NUMBER 0035386205.

After confirming from officials at the Union Bank PLC that the given account was genuine and operational, Lawani said he immediately remitted two separate sums of N6,000,000.00 each from his personal Savings account number 0020788938 at Union Bank PLC., Ogiri Oko Street, Makurdi, Benue State in respect and on behalf of AGRIBIZ MULTI-PURPOSE SOCIETY and OCHECHEMA FARMERS COOPERATIVE, respectively to the account of the Benue State’s Ministry of Agriculture and Natural Resources as given above.

After the payment, on the same day, Lawani said he was issued two official receipts of the Ministry (Receipts Numbers 15887 and 15888) to this effect through Mr. Samson Abeh with a promise of the availability of the fertilizers on or before two weeks, from the date of issuance of receipts.

Further investigation revealed that following elapse of the stated period of the supposed supply of the fertilizers paid for, the victim (Lawani) entreated Mr. Samson Abeh and Mr. Solomon Ogidi for explanations but however got some “very spurious, inconsistent explanation” which he claimed had portrayed falsehood.

In the course of his efforts in this regard, the Commissioner for Agriculture and Natural Resources, Hon. James Anbua, granted Dr. Lawani an audience on Thursday 29th December, 2016 in respect of this transaction, and in the course of the meeting, the victim was made to understand that his  complaints arose from a scam being perpetuated by officials of the Ministry with no official knowledge or backing whatsoever by his office.

On June 3rd 2016, Dr. Lawani made two cash deposits of N6 Million each (N12 Million in total) to the Benue State Ministry of Agriculture through its Union Bank account number 0025386205 with regard this transactions.

It was gathered that on June 7, 2016, Mrs. Chieryol Susan, a cashier at the Ministry was ordered by her Director of Finance at the Ministry, Mrs. Christiana Mhambe, to issue a cheque of the same N12 million to Mr. Samson Mhambe who fronted the deal on their behalf.

According to a statement made to the Police by Mrs. Chieryol Susan (The ministry’s cashier) on October 14, 2016, the Director of Finance, Mrs. Christiana Mhambe, told her that there was a N12 Million in the Ministry’s Salaries and Overhead Account sent to Mr. Samson Abeh from overseas privately for a different purpose. 

It was also learnt that Mrs. Chieryol Susan complied with the directive and issued a cheque of N6 million to Mr. Samson Abeh in the afternoon of June 7, 2016 and another check of the second part of the cash later that same day.

Mr. Samson Abeh on getting to Union Bank, Makurdi to cash the two cheques discovered that the bank would go for investigation since he was not a signatory to the account at the time, and to avoid any fallout of the deal, he quickly returned the cheque to the Ministry’s Director of Finance, Mrs. Christiana Mhambe, who quickly ordered the Ministry’s Cashier, Chieryol Susan, to replace Samson’s name with hers and ensure she got the cash for Mr. Samson.

Again, Chieryol Susan complied and the transaction became successful, and the two withdrawals of N6 million each took place same day.

In Chieryol Susan’s statement, Mr. Samson Abeh who called her from classroom as she was rewriting her WAEC at NKST Aliade that same day, ended up given her just about three thousand Naira (N3,000.00) only from the huge money (N12 million) he (Abeh Samson) obtained through her help

Confirming the transactions during our investigations, Mr. Igbinehi Efosa of Union Bank PLC, Makurdi, said: “The two transactions took place between 12:30pm and 4:30pm before the Bank’s official closing hour of 4:30pm same day”