THE lingering rift between Governor Samuel Ortom of Benue State and his estranged political benefactor, Senator George Akume, has taken a new twist as the governor has called on the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, to prosecute Senator Akume for allegedly fleecing the state of N2 billion in 2007.
Governor Ortom, who was reacting to an allegation by Senator Akume at the recent All Progressives Congress, APC, presidential rally in Makurdi that he was the richest governor in North Central, said the former governor should be questioned on the said fund which he allegedly withdrew from the state coffers at the twilight of his administration.
Ortom said: “I was a millionaire before I became governor and those of you who are in Benue State know. But because of my public office, I had to resign from the chairmanship of my company when I became a minister.
“The company is doing fine, borrowing money from NEXIM Bank, Bank of Industry and Central Bank Agriculture Develop-ment Programme. You can check and confirm.
“Akume, who was governor for eight years, you would recall, took N2 billion from the state coffers before leaving office. Up till today, the case is still with EFCC. It’s just that he is in APC so, nobody is concerned about prosecuting him, but he should be prosecuted.
“That is why I am saying that EFCC has become a department in APC, otherwise Akume would have gone to jail by now if he were prosecuted.
“Where did he get money to build the palace that he has in Makurdi with all the houses that he has around this town? What about the ones he bought? Where did he get money to build the house he is living in Abuja?”
Reacting to the allegation on behalf of Senator Akume, his then Special Assistant and former Special Adviser to Governor Ortom, Mr. Abua Yaji, said the allegation was baseless.
He said: “That is outright falsehood. Senator Akume did not hand over to Ortom, he handed over to Gabriel Suswam and if there was anything like that, Akume was the most investigated former governor after he handed over power.
“There were over five panels that came to investigate him and they gave him a clean bill.
“So Akume cannot be drawn into mudslinging with Ortom. He served the state for eight years and had a lot of security challenges, including the Taraba, Jukun, Kutev/Tiv crisis.
“When he was leaving office, salaries that were not paid were still in the coffers of the government, when Suswam came he paid with the funds.
“Akume awarded road contracts and paid upfront before leaving office. When Suswam came, he had a smooth takeover.
“If Ortom feels Akume did wrong, he should take him to court even through private prosecution.”