Benue senator for probe as EFCC, ICPC, Senate begin investigation on N3.785B fraud

…Petitioners threaten to approach International Court if…

Nigerian Concord Newspaper

The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Commission as well as the Senate Committee on Ethics, Privileges and Public Petitions have begun investigation into the corrupt practices of senator representing Benue Northwest, Dr. Titus Zam PhD while he was the helmsman at the Benue State Bureau for Local Government and Chieftaincy Affairs, Makurdi between 2015 and 2018.

Recall that 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.

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.

An investigation to probe Titus Zam was initiated in 2018 but it was stopped by some chieftains of the All Progressive Congress in Benue state.

Meanwhile, the fresh investigations by the EFCC, ICPC and the Senate are results of a fresh petition which was received by the anti graft agencies last week. The petition was registered by one of the top Nigeria’s anti corruption groups, Global Anti Corruption Crusaders which has its head office at 64, Gana Street, Maitama in Abuja.

Global Anti Corruption Crusaders 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 at a Press Conference addressed by its chairman, John Tsav Esq this morning.

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.

“Mr. Chairman, recall that Chief Samuel Ortom had made several efforts to sack the corrupt Titus Zam from office as his Special Adviser because of his zero tolerance for corruption but all his efforts were frustrated by Senator George Akume who was always using the power of the federal government to fight him (Ortom). Sir, as anti-corruption crusaders, we believe that our society will be better if corrupt elements like Senator Titus Zam are investigated, prosecuted and convicted if found guilty rather than allowing him to be boasting everywhere that he is untouchable as a result of his closeness to the Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Senator George Akume whom we believe will be ready to respect the policy of President Bola Tinubu to fish out and prosecute corrupt public office holders like Titus Zam in the country.

Meanwhile, the chairman of the group, Mr. John Tsav Esq while addressing a well-attended press conference in Abuja this morning threatened that Global Anti Corruption Crusaders which is made up of lawyers and public activists will approach the international court if the petition which had been officially received by the EFCC, ICPC and the Senate Committee on Ethics, Privileges and Public Petitions is not properly investigated and all accused persons prosecuted.

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