The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), says it only has the power to place an account on Post No Debit (PND) order which can last for only 72 hours while the court has power to give orders to freeze any account.
The commission, therefore, debunked reports that it froze Benue State government accounts, saying it has no power to carry out such action.
Some operatives of the anti-graft agency who spoke to LEADERSHIP Weekend last night dispelled rumours of freezing accounts fabricated by some state governments for cheap propaganda.
According to the EFCC operatives who did not want their names in print, the Benue State government raised false alarm of account freezing in order to divert the commission’s attention from the fact that despite investigations, illegal withdrawals from the state accounts running into billions are still ongoing.
Documents obtained from the commission showed that N792,039,884 was alleged to be illegally withdrawn from the Bureau of local government and chieftaincy account with Sterling Bank, with account number 0017836093.
Also, the joint state and local governments Fidelity Bank account, 5030058730 witnessed withdrawal of N1,367,043,651.52, while the sum of N1,916,635,206.00 was withdrawn from Benue state Government House account with UBA, with number 1017348051.
The documents further indicated that Benue state Bureau of Internal service and Special Service account with UBA, 1007540119, witnessed withdrawal of 11, 827,455,250; Benue state Bureau of Internal service and Special Service account with First Bank, number 2023788057 had N5,886,237,150 withdrawn from it and Benue state Bureau of Internal service and Special Service account with Zenith Bank 1010653167 saw withdrawal of N1,640,527,540.
The operatives alleged that these withdrawals, totalling over N23 billion could not be properly accounted for as the cashiers and accountants have no documentations of how the funds were spent.
The EFCC had alleged recently that it discovered illegal withdrawals, mismanagement and embezzlement of over N21 billion by Samuel Ortom, the Benue State governor, and his officials.
Acting on intelligence on January 1, 2018 given on alleged diversion of N8 billion cash from accounts belonging to Benue state government by officials of the government and the governor, the operatives of the anti-graft agency said, on investigation, they discovered that between June 30 and March, 2018, over N21 billion was withdrawn from four accounts belonging to the state government.
Data said to have been obtained from the EFCC showed that one Emmanuel Aogar, Patrick Abah and Ochuga Peter, all cashiers of the government, withdrew N396,728,950, N130,199,386 and N704,041,000 respectively over the period under investigation.
The funds were withdrawn from Benue State Government House Account, with account numbers 1017348051, UBA and 0027952907, GTB.
Also, one Oliver Mtom, a cashier, reportedly, withdrew the sum of N19, 468, 951, 590 from Bureau for Internal Affairs and Special Service account with number 1007540119, UBA and 2023788057, First Bank between same period.
When interrogated by the EFCC, the cashiers and accountants claimed they withdrew the funds and kept them in their offices on instructions of their bosses. The EFCC operatives stated that while giving his accounts, Permanent Secretary of the Benue State Government House, Gabriel Langba, claimed that the over N1 billion withdrawn was for the running of the Government House expenses.
However, Boniface Nyaakor, Permanent secretary of the Bureau for Internal Affairs and Special Service, claimed that the N19, 468, 951, 590 withdrawn was used to fund six security agencies in the state. The EFCC noted that all those indicated on the investigation would be prosecuted soon.