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Benue: PDP tasks EFCC to probe, prosecute officials accused of corruption

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The Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in Benue State has called on the anti-corruption agencies in the country such as EFCC, ICPC and DSS to ensure that officials of the Benue State government who have been fingered in the alleged embezzlement of local government funds are brought to justice.

The PDP which made the call in a statement signed by its state Publicity Secretary, Chief Bemgba Iortyom, described as unacceptable, reports of mismanagement of taxpayers’ monies by the Governor Hyacinth Alia administration in which N20 billion out of N50 billion belonging to the 23 local government councils in the state has allegedly been deducted and paid illegally into private accounts.

The statement read:

“The constitution of two panels by Benue State Governor, Hyacinth Alia, to probe the administration of his immediate predecessor, Chief Samuel Ortom, is evidently a ploy to shied from public scrutiny the serial failures of his government.

“In what may be interpreted as lack of confidence in the Benue Judicial family, Governor Alia selected two justices from outside the state to head the two panels which are vested with separate mandates to probe into the assets and finances of the state during the era of the Ortom administration from May 29, 2015 to May 28, 2023.

“Chief Ortom, who since the expiry of his two terms in office as governor has lived freely among the people in the state, has since expressed his readiness to submit himself before any lawful process as will require him to give account of his stewardship as governor.

“The Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in the state, likewise, recognizes the place of probity and accountability as necessary components of good governance, and will stand by its Leader, Chief Ortom, through this process of stock-taking, if that is actually what it will be.

“Nevertheless, the party raises questions as to the timing of the probe exercise, coming it at a time Governor Alia’s table is already full with issues of insecurity and allegations of monumental corruption taking place under his watch.

“PDP recalls that only last week the governor issued a 14 days ultimatum to Fulani herdsmen who have instreamed into the state with thousands of cattle to leave, however, there was no clear statement on the consequences for non compliance with the ultimatum.

“Today marks the 8th day into that ultimatum and if anything, the herders have intensified their influx into the state coming in larger numbers and with larger herds of livestock, thereby deepening insecurity and putting to greater jeopardy the survival of the people who depend on the land for basic sustenance.

“There has also arisen the allegations of massive corruption taking place at the Bureau of Local Government and Chieftaincy Affairs where sharp practices have been exposed in the form of illegal deductions and remittances from the accounts of the 23 local government councils into private accounts of certain officials of government and some suspected cronies of the governor.

“In the last few days, the national media have been awash with news of civil society groups who, having observed the fleece taking place at the Benue State local government Bureau, have forwarded petitions regarding those allegations to anti-corruption authorities vested with the powers for investigating and prosecuting financial crimes, and the sums involved run into tens of billions of naira within a period of less than a year.

“PDP notes with sadness that those allegations of mismanagement of taxpayers monies by the Alia government are such that an alleged N20 billion out of N50 billion belonging to the 23 local government councils has been deducted into illegal accounts, and this hints loudly at the reason why Governor Alia had gone to the extremities of disregarding series of court orders to sack the lawful councils and put in their place his selected cronies as caretaker chairmen.

“Also of grave concern are the allegations that an estimated close to N300 million was deducted from the local government funds monthly purportedly to feed and cater for the IDPs in the state, yet it is not anywhere known that the Alia government has any programme in place for the IDPs.

“PDP cautions Governor Alia against trifling with the security and well-being of the people of Benue State whom he swore on oath to serve, and must resist the temptation to indulge in vendetta and smokescreens while insecurity and poverty pose an increasingly monstrous existential threat to the people.

“The party also calls on the EFCC, ICPC, DSS and the Presidency to ensure that those officials of the Alia administration fingered in the alleged grand theft of local government funds in the state are brought to book.“

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Bayelsa Governorship: Tribunal Reserves Judgment on Sylva, Diri

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The Bayelsa State Governorship Election Petition Tribunal, on Monday, reserved its judgment in the petition filed by the candidate of the All Progressives Congress (APC), Timipre Sylvia, challenging the re-election of Douye Diri as Governor of Bayelsa State.

The Chairman of the tribunal, Justice Adekunle Adeleye, made the announcement shortly after parties adopted and argued their written addresses in the suit.

He assured the parties that the panel’s verdict would be delivered within the 180 days statutorily allowed by law, adding that the judgment date would be communicated as soon as it is fixed.

At Monday’s proceedings, the petitioners prayed the tribunal to annul the declaration of Diri as the winner of the November 11, 2023 election.

Their lead counsel, Dr Onyechi Ikpeazu (SAN), told the tribunal that the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) embarked on wrongful exclusion of results before arriving at the declaration of Diri as winner.

Ikpeazu further stated that the electoral body did not debunk the allegation of wrongful exclusion of results by not calling the state election result collation officer to testify.

He therefore urged the tribunal to objectively decide the petition on the strength of the evidence adduced by the petitioners especially because INEC did not call a single witness to challenge all the allegations.

However, Diri’s counsel, Chris Uche (SAN), informed the tribunal that the petition by Sylva died on arrival because it is grossly deficient in quantity and quality of evidence.

He said that the petition was baseless, frivolous and vexatious and grossly lacking in merit because the two petitioners did not discharge the burden placed on them by law.

Among others, Uche said that Sylva predicated his petition on alleged refusal of INEC to collate results in three local governments areas — Southern Ijaw, Nembe and Ogbia — but failed to call a single collation officer to back up its claim.

Besides, Uche said that Sylva did not tender the voter register, BVAS machines and form EC8A used for the purported election in the three local governments to establish his allegations.

The senior lawyer also said that the petitioner himself, despite having a witness statement on oath, refused to give evidence before the tribunal to substantiate his allegations.

Uche pleaded with the tribunal to discountenance the evidence of a former police commissioner in the state on the ground that the police officer admitted before the tribunal that he had issues with Diri when the Prado Jeep earlier given to him was withdrawn.

Uche also urged the tribunal not to invoke the spirit of the judgment that brought Imo State Governor, Hope Uzodinma, into office, adding that INEC has established beyond doubt that election did not hold in the three local governments due to resistance by some hoodlums to the use of BVAS machines.

Similarly, INEC, represented by Charles Edosomwan (SAN), and Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), represented by Tayo Oyetibo (SAN), canvassed for the dismissal of the petition on the ground that the petitioners failed and neglected to discharge the burden of establishing their allegations against the election beyond reasonable doubt as required by law.

INEC had declared Diri of the PDP winner of the November 11, 2023 governorship election in Bayelsa State, having won majority of the votes cast at the election.

According to the Returning Officer, Prof. Faruq Kuta, the PDP and Diri polled 175,196 votes to defeat his closest rival, Timipre Sylva of the APC, who scored 110,108 votes.

Dissatisfied, Sylva and APC had approached the tribunal to challenge the declaration of Diri as winner of the poll.

The petitioners are asking the tribunal to hold that contrary to the position of the electoral umpire, election held in some polling units and winners declared at the said units, adding that it was wrong of INEC to disregard the results at the ward and local government level.

It is their claim that if the said cancelled results were restored by the court, they would emerge winner of the November election.

But the respondents, especially INEC, which conducted the election, submitted that election in three local governments of Southern Ijaw, Ogbia and Nembe did not hold due to incidents of alleged diversions of materials and disruption of the electoral process over alleged bypass of the BVAS machine.

They had tendered the Form EC40G to confirm that there were no elections in the said polling units.

In addition, the respondents brought Certified True Copies (CTCs) of results from INEC to prove that the results brought before the court as evidence that election held at the polling units were forged by the petitioners.

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Edo Guber: Labour Party Faults INEC Final List

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The Edo State chapter of the Labour Party (LP) has faulted the final list as published by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC).

INEC, in the final list released on April 22, named Oluyinka Faith Alufohai as running mate to Olumide Akpata rather than Alhaji Asamah Yusuf Kadiri, (SAN).

Recall that  the  Labour Party governorship candidate in the September 21st gubernatorial election, Olumide Akpata dropped Oluyinka Faith Alufohai and picked Alhaji Asamah Yusuf Kadiri, SAN as his running mate.

A press statement signed by Comrade Kelly Ogbaloi, the state chairman of the party, and made available to newsmen in Benin City, assured party members and supporters that “this is simply a technical error”.

Comrade Ogbaloi, said, “Our team followed all necessary procedures and submitted Alhaji Kadiri’s name and credentials as the deputy governorship candidate, well within INEC’s stipulated window.

“Unfortunately, a technical glitch occurred at the end of the National Headquarters of our party during the submission process, resulting in the incorrect name appearing on the final list.

“We are currently actively engaged with INEC officials to rectify this issue immediately and our team has provided all requisite documentation demonstrating Alhaji Kadiri’s valid nomination. We have been following-up with INEC diligently, to ensure it updates its candidate list with the accurate information.

“We recognise the anxiety this error may cause, but urge our supporters to remain calm and steadfast in their commitment to our party’s vision.

“Your unwavering support and activism have been invaluable thus far, and we need you to continue spreading awareness of our platform and championing the positive change we represent.

He further said: “The Labour Party is determined to contest the forthcoming September 21, 2024, Edo State Governorship elections fairly and transparently.

“We should not allow this minor administrative hurdle to dampen our confidence or impede our momentum.

“Together, we shall overcome any obstacle, minor or major, as we continue our march towards restoring Edo State to its pride of place nationally.”

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Ondo guber aspirant, Akinterinwa under EFCC custody

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The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) has detained All Progressives Congress (APC) governorship aspirant in Ondo State Wale Akinterinwa.

He is being held in connection with the ongoing investigation of his tenure as Commissioner for Finance in the defunct Akeredolu administration.

Until the State Executive Council was dissolved by Governor Lucky Aiyedatiwa, who succeeded the late Governor Rotimi Akeredolu, Akinterinwa served as commissioner for over seven years.

The aspirant is being investigated for alleged mismanagement of billions of Naira, a source said.

Although Akinterinwa participated at the weekend direct primary from detention, EFCC said the timing of detention was at its discretion and choice.

According to sources, Akinterinwa was invited some weeks ago by the anti-graft body for interaction on some allegations, but was “allegedly too busy” to honour the invitation.

He, however, showed up at the anti-graft commission’s office on Thursday.

It was gathered that EFCC decided to be silent on the detention in order not to jeopardise Akinterinwa’s chances in the APC primary.

A source, who spoke in confidence, said: “In the past few weeks, the EFCC invited Akinterinwa for interrogation on the red flag on some issues during his tenure as Commissioner for Finance. But he has not been forthcoming.

“The commission had the option to declare him wanted, but it exercised restrained to avoid being dragged into politics because he was an aspirant for the APC governorship primary.

“But Akinterinwa voluntarily reported to the EFCC in Abuja. He was taken into custody for quizzing.”

The soure speaking yesterday, said: “Akinterinwa is still in our custody. We did not arrest or pick him up, but he came up to respond to our long overdue invitation. I can tell you that his detention has no political undertone.”

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