EFCC quizzes Edo council workers

For allegedly conniving with the council chairman of Esan North-East local government area of Edo state, Mr Augustine Okoibhole, to defraud the council of several millions of Naira, seven top officials of the council have been quizzed by the officials of Benin zone of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC).

The invitation by the commission may not be unconnected with a recent petition by some councillors against the council chairman who was accused of involvement in corrupt practices to enrich himself at the detriment of the welfare of the people of the local government area, abuse of office and others.

A council source listed the officials invited for questioning to include the Heads of Departments, Works, of the council was said to have been invited last Wednesday but was released by the anti-graft agency when the allegation of corruption could not be traced to him while the remaining six were reportedly invited after which some of them were released on bail last Friday, adding that another top official of the council will be quizzed at time this week.

The source who could not disclose the exact amount of money said that the officials in the alleged fraud are mostly from the cash office, executive council recording department, procurement office, health department, revenue, and works departments.

The public relations officer of EFCC, Mr Wilson Oseghale said that he was on vacation but however added: “We invite people from everywhere all the time for interrogation and we always make public anybody who is with us. We invite people from all sectors all the time.”

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It would be recalled that nine councillors from wards 1,2,3,6,7,8,9,20 and 11 had recently petitioned Governor Godwin Obaseki accusing the chairman of financial recklessness and that he operates multiple accounts in the name of the council as against a single account policy of the state and the federal government.

They alleged that the chairman has not been able to account for a N13,348,000 remitted to the account of the council by the revenue verification committee just as they alleged that the sum of N144,000,000 realised as Internally Generated Revenue (IGR) for the past 16 months has not been accounted for.

The aggrieved councillors also claimed that the chairman has not been able to account for the N116,350,894 Paris Club refund.

But reacting to the allegations yesterday, Okoibhole said: “The new NFIU (Nigerian Financial Intelligence Unit)  directive gives us room to operate three accounts and that is what we are doing, we are operating three accounts.”

On not being able account for IGR, he said: “We have been paying salaries, we are not owing workers salaries, I have done many projects, I have to build a livestock market I have done drainages all these monies did not come from my personal pocket what we have done is even far more than N144 million naira. My wage bill on a monthly base is over N30m and for the last 25 months, I have paid salaries, I have debts that we are owing on rented properties and several other spendings.

On Paris Club refund, he said acted as directed by the state governor to pay salary arrears “we were owing eight months and now we are owing only two and half months which means I have paid five and a half months.”

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