Titus Zam: Anti corruption group charges EFCC boss on speedy probe of Benue senator

Nigerian Concord Newspaper

Members of the Global Anti Corruption Crusaders have called on the Chairman of the Economic Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), Mr. Olanipekun Olukoyede to consider a speedy probe of a Benue senator, Mr. Titus Zam who has been accused of multiple frauds while he held sway as the Special Adviser of the Benue State Bureau for Local Government and Chieftaincy Affairs.

The anti corruption group which is made up of lawyers across the North Central region of the country made this known today, June 1, 2024 during a press briefing which was addressed by its Chairman, Barrister John Tsav Esq.

Recall that a group of Benue lawyers led by Barrister John Tsav Esq, a younger brother to the late former Lagos State police commissioner, Abubakar Tsav had recently petitioned the EFCC, ICPC and the Senate Committee on Public Petitions to invite, investigate and prosecute Senator Titus Zam who represents Benue Northwest at the National Assembly over the billion naira frauds which he personally committed while he was the special adviser at the Bureau for Local Government and Chieftaincy Affairs in Benue state between 2015 and 2018 that he was sacked by the then governor, Chief Samuel Ortom PhD as a result of his zero tolerance for corruption.

The group in the press briefing which was addressed in Abuja today, Saturday urged the anti graft agency to live up to its words by inviting the senator for questioning over the allegations.

It further said that the senator shouldn’t be treated differently because of his closeness to some “power brokers” at the seat of power in Abuja.

According to the group, there have been efforts by some people to kill the petition so that the truth won’t be revealed to the public.

Specifically, Tsav mentioned the senator representing Benue NorthEast Barrister Emmanuel Udende as one of the power brokers in Abuja that have been blocking EFCC from probing the allegations of N3.785B frauds made against Dr. Zam who doubles as the leader of the Benue APC National Assembly Caucus, Senator Titus Zam PhD.

The anti corruption group accused Udende of using his power as the chairman of the Senate Committee on EFCC and anti corruption to downplay the petition which the anti graft agency had already listed for investigation and prosecution.

Tsav said: “No one is above the law and we expect the EFCC chairman to live up to his words that he won’t spare any corrupt public office holder no matter how close such person is to the government that appointed him to head the agency.

“Why some power brokers in Abuja are blocking the petition is what we haven’t understood. A petition has been filed and the EFCC has invited us to adopt it in person, and that we have done with further documents as requested by them.

“It’s left to the EFCC to invite him, investigate him and determine if he has a case to answer or not, and not that some godfathers will be running helter skelter to frustrate our efforts”

The immediate past governor of Benue state, Chief Samuel Ortom PhD as a result of his administration’s Zero tolerance for corruption had in June 2018 sacked the accused, Titus Zam as his Special Adviser in the Bureau for stealing local government funds running into hundreds of millions of Naira.

Chief Ortom reported him to the EFCC for findings in 2018 but the investigation was halted by some Benue-born influential politicians within the federal administration led then by Mohammadu Buhari.

Part of Zam’s offence which led to his sack was that he injected some fake names into the payrolls of the Bureau and was personally diverting their salaries into his personally use. Also, the senator incurred the wrath of his former employer, Samuel Ortom when the former governor realized that he had been defrauding the state through a central payment of salaries to the twenty three local governments of the state. He was accused of pocketing the salaries of about 7,000 staffers that he illegally dismissed. Reports had it that the development got Ortom very angry and sacked him.

Global Anti Corruption Crusaders had last month made a copy of the petition with EFCC Reference Number EFCC/PET/HQR/0747/2024 titled: “Report of massive frauds and illegal deductions of local government allocations by Senator Titus Zam and others” which was received by the EFCC headquarters in Abuja on Monday 18th March, 2024 to reporters.

The petitioner in their petition signed by John Tsav Esq and Apine Anthony, chairman and secretary respectively said that the senator representing Benue Northwest at the National Assembly, one Emmanuel Gbagyo, a former accountant of the Bureau for Local Government and Chieftaincy Affairs and one Emmanuel Ikpe, a former permanent secretary of the Bureau illegally and without the knowledge of the state government deducted the sum of N3, 795, 000,000.00 (Three billion , seven hundred and ninety five million Naira) from the allocation of the twenty three local governments between June 217 and May 2018 that they were sacked by Chief Ortom for gross financial misappropriation.

According to the petitioners, the trio of Zam, Gbagyo and Ikpe were deducting N15,000,000.00 (Fifteen million naira) from the allocation of each of the twenty three local government areas of Benue state for the period stated above.

The petitioners also accused Titus Zam of using his position in 2017 to defraud the people of Benue state on the Central payment of salaries to staffers of the twenty three local governments. He was accused of joining his permanent secretary and accountant at the Bureau at that time, Emmanuel Gbagyo and Emmanuel Ikpe to pocket the salaries of about 7,000 staffers that he illegally dismissed without the approval of the Ortom-led administration.

“We want to inform you about how he (Zam) added about 600 fake names to the payroll of the Bureau, and salaries were paid to these fake staffers even when they weren’t staffers of the Bureau” the petition reads.

The petition also reads: “Mr. Chairman, Senator Titus Zam was invited by the Benue State House of Assembly in 2017 to explain why salaries of Bureau staffers were being delayed but he lied that he inherited the Central payment system from the administration of Dr. Gabriel Suswam. He was immediately confronted by the state lawmakers that the Suswam-led administration engaged Tech Vibes LTD to automate the salary payment at the third tier of government in order to eliminate ghost workers”

The petitioner accused Titus Zam of summarily dismissing the 7000 staffers he had captured on the payroll of the Bureau, injected 600 fake names into the payrolls and began to collect their monthly salaries for about two years before he was caught by former governor Ortom who immediately sacked him.

Part of the petition reads:
“Our investigations revealed that Senator Zam later developed an idea of not giving local government allocations in cash through their accounts because he was lavishing local governments funds the way he wanted in the Bureau and would only send figures on paper to the various Treasurers of local governments and also compelled them to remit the amount and forward Treasury receipts to the Bureau. This got Chief Samuel Ortom who was out of the country at that time angry and that made him to force Senator Zam to face an investigating panel of the State House of Assembly before he was sacked.

“Sir, it is important to inform you that Senator Titus Zam used his position as the Special Adviser in the Bureau for Local Government and Chieftaincy Affairs in 2015 and 2016 to defraud the state government to the tune of N929,903,967.00 million.

“To substantiate our allegation against him, Mr. Titus Zam used his front men, John Bako and Festus Andoor to withdraw the said funds from Bureau’s account with Fidelity Bank. The Fidelity bank account number where the said funds were withdrawn from is 5030058730. Even though John Bako was not a signatory to
the said account, he on November, 2015, December 17, 2015, January 16, 2016, February 9, 2016, and March 17, 2016 withdrew N17, 950,000.00 (Seventeen million, nine hundred and fifty thousand) in five instalments. He withdrew N3,590,000.00 at each instalment. This was done with the express approval of Mr. Titus Zam without the knowledge of the then governor, Chief Samuel Ortom.

“Sir, it is important for you to know how corrupt Senator Titus Zam is by notifying you how he also approved for Festus Andoor on February 11, 2016 to make a cash withdrawal of N151,806,920.00 (One hundred and fifty-one million, eight hundred and six thousand, nine hundred and twenty naira) in sixteen instalments. Also on the 17” February 2016, Mr. Festus Andoor was given some cheques by Titus Zam to make some withdrawals of N200,000,000.00 (Two hundred million naira) in ten instalments.

“Mr. Chairman, you may like to know that earlier in November 2015, Andoor Festus got an approval trom Senator Titus Zam to withdraw the sum of N52, 026,800 (Fifty – two million and twenty-six thousand, eight hundred naira) in five installments in December 2015, February 2016 and March 2016 made cash withdrawals of N216,561,684.84 (Two hundred and sixteen million, five hundred and sixty – one thousand, six hundred and eighty four naira, eighty four kobo) only; N89,574,600.00 (Eighty nine million, five hundred and seventy four thousand, six hundred naira) only; N525, 206,920.00 (Five hundred and twenty-five thousand, two hundred and six thousand, nine hundred and twenty naira) only and N20,783,962.16 (Twenty million, seven hundred and eighty – three thousand, nine hundred and sixty – two naira sixteen kobo) only respectively from same Fidelity account with number 5030058730 while Andoor Festus was also directed by Titus Zam to also make withdrawals of huge sums in similar fashion of several instalments amounting to N911,953,967.00 (Nine hundred and eleven million, nine hundred and fifty – three thousand, Nine hundred and sixty-seven). When this came to the knowledge of Chief Samuel Ortom who wanted to sack him immediately for violating his policy of zero tolerance for corruption. Senator George Akume waded in and threatened the former governor, and ensured that the story never came out. Chief Ortom however mounted a strong surveillance to monitor Zam’s activities in the Bureau till he sacked him in 2018.

“Mr. Chairman, let us quickly inform you that Chief Samuel Ortom immediately sacked Senator Titus Zam as his adviser in the Bureau immediately he got information about how he had been looting public funds at the Bureau. He was to be prosecuted but the present Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Senator George Akume kicked against it just because a very large part of the loots was being given to him by the former Adviser (Titus Zam) monthly. Akume reportedly stopped every plan to prosecute Zam whom he proclaimed as his political godson. This explains why he gave the Benue Zone B Senatorial ticket to Zam even though there were more qualified aspirants in the All Progressive Congress, APC.

“Sir, attached to this petition is a letter tagged “Secret” from Senator Titus Zam written July 26, 2017 where he directed the former Permanent Secretary of the Bureau for Local Government and Chieftaincy Affairs, Mr. Emmanuel Ikpe to inform the then twenty-three local government chairmen in the state to remit the illegally deducted funds to the then accountant of the Bureau, Mr. Emmanuel Gbagyo. Also attached to this petition is a letter from Mr. Emmanuel lkpe dated July 28, 2017 to the then
twenty-three local government chairmen to inform them that his boss, the former Adviser had directed that the monthly remittance should be handed over to Mr. Emmanuel Gbagyo, the then Accountant of the Bureau”

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *