Anti-graft agencies, the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) and the Independent Corrupt Practices Commission (ICPC) have been invited to Benue state by officials of the All Progressives Congress (APC). The officials are alleging gross irregularities and fraud in the award of contracts to some APC chieftains in the state. Some of the officials indicted are said to be currently holding public offices in the state.
The situation started when the State Universal Basic Education Board (SUBEB) earmarked over 700 projects in the state owned primary schools which ranges from construction of new classroom blocks to renovation of existing facilities across the 23 LGAs of the State. Governor Samuel Ortom reportedly mandated that executives of each of the 276 council wards in the state nominate a party member that is a contractor to bid and be giving a contract project for each of the wards, as a way to reward political patronage.
The governor’s thinking was that the arrangement will enable the party chieftains to use the proceeds from the execution of the contracts to fund the party activities at the ward and LG levels, rather than waiting for funds from the state government. Trouble however started when after raising funds amongst themselves and sponsoring a company to obtain tax clearance and regularise the bidding documents and bided for a contract afterwards; some wards and LGAs were not favoured in the award of contracts.
Instead, companies that did not participate in the bidding process and some companies belonging to party leaders and public office holders were allegedly given as much as 5 slots across some LGAs. This situation did not go down well with many ward and LG excos who are now demanding that the instructions of the governor must be adhered to, otherwise, the party must refund their hard earned money which they contributed to fund companies.
“It’s unfair! This is not what the Governor wanted for the people. We expected that, with the formula designed by the Governor the award of contracts would trickle down to the ward level where party excos would not only benefit, but would also be privileged to monitor the project, since it is to be situated in their ward”, a source said. On Tuesday, July 19, there was chaos at the Benue state House of Assembly as parliamentary proceedings degenerated into fisticuffs between lawmakers over an alleged 750 million naira car fraud.
The fracas was fueled by an alleged probe by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) into the purchase of cars for the lawmakers.