Group accuses Gov Alia of mismanaging N46bn Benue funds

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By Olugbenga Salami

A pro-democracy group known as Concerned Citizens of Benue for Good Governance, CCBGG, has petitioned the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, to investigate the Governor Hyacinth Alia and his officials for alleged money laundering and diversion of public funds to the tune of N66 billion within four months.

Just last week, an international reputation lawyers’ group, the Global Integrity Crusade Network GICN, had written to the anti-corruption agency to arrest, interrogate and prosecute the Special Adviser to the Governor on Bureau for Local Government and Chieftaincy Affairs, Dennis Akura and others for alleged diversion of over N20 billion belonging to the 23 local government councils of the state.

In the current petition also copied to the Director General, Department of State Services, DSS; Inspector General of Police and the Senate Committee on Anti-Corruption and Financial Crimes, the CCBGG, alleged that only within his first four months in office, Governor Alia’s administration diverted over N46 billion from the state coffers on fake contracts and refurbished vehicles, among other phantom projects.

The petition reads in parts: “What is happening with Benue’s resources under the watch of Governor Alia is worse than a locust. Governor Alia has spent a whopping amount of N46 Billion in just four months in office awarding fictitious contracts, none of which is ongoing. Contracts are awarded to cronies without due process.

“In August, the Governor announced that his government had awarded contracts for the construction of 16 township roads in Makurdi at the cost of N6 billion. The road projects were yet to start anywhere in the state capital, when suddenly, Governor Alia announced that the State Executive Council had given him approval to increase the contract amount for the 16 road projects from N6 billion to N 9 billion. The award of these contracts did not follow due process but only done as directed by Governor Alia.”

The petitioners pointed out that the States’ Fiscal Transparency, Accountability and Sustainability (SFTAS) law otherwise known as Due Process Law is in existence in Benue State, but alleged that Governor Alia is not obeying the law in the award of contracts.

They accused him of awarding the 16 roads contracts for the initial N6 billion when he was yet to constitute a cabinet in place.

The CCBGG further stated that records it had reliably obtained showed that the contracts were over valued and used as conduit pipes for the benefit of Governor Alia, stressing that the projects were not covered in the budget of the state and no approval was given by the state House of Assembly.

The group also asked EFCC to investigate the procurement of buses the Alia administration claimed to have purchased as palliative measures. The ground claimed that the vehicles were refurbished and their prices inflated to enable the governor and other government officials to divert the funds.

“On the 5th of September, 2023, Governor Alia released N1,273,875,000.00 (N1.2 billion) for the procurement of 100 refurbished 2017/2016 Hummer buses for palliative measures and 50 fairly used Hilux 2018/2019 model vehicles for other purposes. The company known as Lajec Engineering Services Ltd owned by some cronies of the Governor were given the contract to procure the vehicles.

“Governor Alia again on the 27th of September, 2023, released additional N736,375,000.00, for an unspecified number of fairly used Hummer buses for palliative measures and fairly used Toyota Hilux (2018/2019 model) for other purposes with the (contract no. BSPPC-43/2023). The job was also awarded to Lajec Engineering Limited.

“Again on the 28th September, 2023, the Alia government again released N 2,236,000,000.00 (N2.2 billion) to Lajec Engineering Services Ltd for the procurement of the same refurbished Hummer buses and some fairly used Toyota Hilux (2018/2019) model vehicles,” the group stated.

The petitioners also alleged that Governor Alia spent several billions on his vehicles and those of other government officials including State Assembly members with the procurements not following laid down procedures, a move they claimed was designed to benefit cronies of the Governor.

They accused the governor of freezing all the accounts of the state government while he makes frequent withdrawals at his discretion, depending on his personal conviction, interest and priority.

“It is worthy to stress that the massive looting of state funds is being diverted for personal and primitive accumulation of wealth as evidenced by the purchase of houses in New GRA, Makurdi, Guzape- Abuja, Maitama and Asokoro. And being an American citizen, the governor has through his cronies bought houses in America,” the petition added.

The CCBGG further alleged that the governor has embarked on projects only as a means of siphoning funds of the state through the award of contracts such as the renovation of the state secretariat at the whooping sum of over N2 billion to a female friend, while the contract is yet to be executed.

The group accused Governor Alia of embarking on the construction of a flyover at the high level roundabout at the cost he has claimed to be N6 billion in an area which never experiences traffic congestion and which project is also not captured in the budget and is now talking about a similar contract in Gboko, adding that the flyovers did not have any known architectural designs and will only serve as a means for fleecing public resources in the hands of governor.

The petitioners wondered why despite the huge allocations accruing to the state following the removal of subsidy, Governor Alia has chosen to ignore the basic aspects of development and has chosen to amass wealth for himself and his cronies.

The CCBGG said Governor Alia has not demonstrated any iota of transparency and accountability despite the unprecedented federal allocations coming into the state as a result of fuel subsidy removal, stressing that he has refused to clear the arrears of salaries, pensions and gratuities and is busy building his personal wealth.

It said allocations have increased by nearly 70% since June 2023 at both state and local government levels, yet, Governor Alia has not provided any information regarding how much his government is receiving and what is being spent, adding that the Governor has been deducting huge sums from the state treasury in the name of security votes without applying the funds for the use they are meant for.

The petitioners are also demanding that the EFCC should investigate the Special Adviser to Benue Governor Hyacinth Alia on Bureau for Local Government and Chieftaincy Affairs, Dennis Akura and others for alleged diversion of local government funds.

The group accused Alia’s government of embezzling N20 billion of local government funds between June and December 2023. It said the LG Bureau under Government Alia has been using some of its staff and privately owned companies to siphon the funds meant for local governments in the state.

It further submitted that the allegedly embezzled N20 billion is part of aggregate Federal Account Allocation Committee (FAAC) funds which accrued to the 23 Local Government Councils in Benue State between June to November, 2023.