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22 Feb 2016


By Nathaniel Ikyur. 
The Justice Elizabeth Kpojime-led Commission of Enquiry that probed financial transactions that accrued to Benue State between 2007 to 2015 has recommended that the former governor of the state, Dr Gabriel Torwua Suswam be prosecuted immediately for massively looting the state treasury.
Also asked to be tried for corruption includes Suswam's former Commissioner of Finance, Omadachi Oklobia, former Special Adviser on Local Governments and Chieftaincy Affairs, Solomon Wombo, Permanent Secretary in the ministry of Finance, Mrs Ruth Ijir among others.
They were alleged to have connived to embezzle various sums of monies meant for the state totalling N107 billion naira.
"The Commission found that within the period under review, a total revenue of over One Trillion naira accrued to the state. Rather than commensurate value of development, the Commission has in this and foregoing Chapters, documented findings of monumental acts of corruption. The report is replete with outright looting, reckless breach of financial regulations and due process. These have bled the state economy and foisted degenerative poverty and disease on majority of the State citizenry. The present administration has as a result inherited a crippling debt burden with attendant adverse effect to the future of the state.
"This state of affairs has been wrought on the good people of Benue State majorly by the former governor, Dr Gabriel Torwua Suswam, his Commissioner of Finance, Hon Omadachi Oklobia and the Permanent Secretary, Mrs Ruth Ijir.
"In spite of the deluge of issues raised against Dr Suswam and Mr Oklobia and which were communicated to them, both refused to appear before the Commission or make representation to clear their names.
"It is particularly noteworthy that Mr Oklobia reached the zenith of dishonesty when, in connivance with Dr Suswam, misled the Stock brokers into paying proceeds of sale of shares into an account belonging to a Bureau de Change operator which he misrepresented to be a project account of the Ministry of Finance."
The Commission then recommended that "For perpetrating the amount of corruption never before known in the history of Benue State, the commission recommends that Dr Gabriel Torwua Suswam and Mr Omadachi Oklobia are not fit to hold public office and should in addition to refunding the sums looted, be barred from holding public office."
On Mrs Ruth Ijir, Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Finance, the Commission blamed her for "completely sidelining financial regulations and due process in the conduct of government financial affairs within the period under review. She is therefore considered not fit to occupy public office and should be compulsorily retired from the civil service of Benue State."
Hear what the five-member commission said on Hon Solomon Wombo, former Special Adviser on Local Governments and Chieftaincy Affairs:
"Mr Solomon Wombo was the "Lord of Manor" treating the Local Government funds like personal cash and even appointing signatories to ALGON accounts. The Permanent Secretaries amd Isaiah Ipevnor totally sidelined financial regulations, die process and even money laundering laws."
Following from this, the Commission recommended that "due to his massive looting of Local Government funds and mis-governance of the Bureau, Mr Solomon Wombo is considered u fit to hold public office. He should in addition to refunding the amount he looted, be barred from holding public office." Isaiah Ipevnor was "considered a corrupt public officer unfit to occupy any office of trust in the service. He is therefore recommended for dismissal."
The Commission disclosed that it had established a "prima face evidence of sundry criminal offence" on the indicted persons and recommended that those "indicted in this report should be referred to the relevant anti-graft and security agencies for prosecution for various offences established against them."
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Item Reviewed: BENUE PROBE: SUSWAM, OKOLOBIA, WOMBO, OTHERS FOR TRIAL Rating: 5 Reviewed By: Link Naija